Real Madrid beat Man City on penalties: Bellingham brilliance and who can stop Ancelotti’s team?

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Real Madrid beat Man City on penalties: Bellingham brilliance and who can stop Ancelotti’s team?

Was it always going to come down to penalties to separate these two great teams?

After the tie finished 4-4 after 210 minutes, 1-1 after extra time at The Etihad, of riveting action, misses in the shootout from Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic proved costly — Real Madrid advancing 4-3.

After Julian Alvarez scored the first spot kick, Ederson saved brilliantly from Luka Modric but Silva’s decision to go down the middle proved costly as Andriy Lunin stood tall. Jude Bellingham and Lucas Vazquez both scored either side of Kovacic’s tame effort being kept out by Lunin. Phil Foden, Nacho and Ederson, the City goalkeeper, all scored before Antonio Rudiger converted decisively from 12 yards.

A moment of sheer brilliance from Bellingham in the build-up to Rodrygo’s 12th minute goal had given Real the advantage.

The first leg had felt like a chance a minute but it was much more cagey in the second meeting, as City struggled to create clearcut chances with the 14-time champions happy to sit deep.

But City huffed and puffed and were level when substitute Jeremy Doku found Kevin De Bruyne in the box and he shot into the roof of the net from close range to restore parity and take the tie to extra time.

Erling Haaland was even withdrawn at 90 minutes for Alvarez but it was penalties that settled it.

The Athletic’s Sam Lee, Daniel Taylor, Tomas Hill Lopez-Menchero and Mark Carey anaylse the action from The Etihad.

Does Bellingham have the grace of Zidane?

Perhaps it should be made mandatory that any television replay of Rodrygo’s 12th-minute goal goes back far enough to include Bellingham’s contribution.

Not many players would have been able to control the looping ball that Dani Carvajal, Madrid’s right-back, had sent high into the sky…

Yet Bellingham’s touch to kill the ball was exquisite: a genuine A-lister playing at the point of maximum expression.

Bellingham wanted to do more than just keep the ball in close proximity. For a player with his uncommon gifts, it was not enough just to maintain possession. He wanted to set his team away, quickly, devastatingly. His movement to elude Ruben Dias, the nearest defender, was all part of the same exercise. And, in that split second, you could hear a flicker of trepidation coming back from the stands.

That noise: every regular match-goer will know what it sounds like when apprehension takes hold of a crowd.

The home fans could recognise his brilliance. They longed for an offside decision to deny Rodrygo his goal. There was no intervention and, as the visiting team celebrated, we were reminded why Bellingham is an ideal wearer of Madrid’s No 5 shirt — the number, as he knew when he chose it, that Zinedine Zidane used to grace.

Daniel Taylor

Would Rodrygo really be the fall guy for Mbappe?

Rodrygo is not usually the first Madrid player to make the headlines — it tends to be his international team-mate Vinicius Junior or Bellingham who steal the limelight.

With Kylian Mbappe expected to join from Paris Saint-Germain this summer, some outlets in Spain speculated that Rodrygo would be the player to make way for the Frenchman in Madrid’s star-studded attack. That is partly because of the Brazilian’s record this season — he had scored 16 goals in 43 games before this match, but has endured various goal droughts.

Rodrygo celebrates the opening goal with Bellingham (Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

It has not deterred Rodrygo. He played a key role from the left in last week’s first leg at the Bernabeu, in which he scored Madrid’s second, and it was the same again at the Etihad. His opening goal illustrated his dedication: he sliced his first effort at City goalkeeper Ederson, but was quick to react to turn in the rebound.It was Rodrygo’s fourth goal in three games after going seven games without scoring. Mbappe’s arrival is unlikely to faze him.

Tomas Hill Lopez-Menchero

Does De Bruyne ever panic?

By the time De Bruyne broke Madrid’s resistance, City had Kyle Walker playing in central midfield, Manuel Akanji was operating as a virtual centre-forward and every player in light blue was within 30 yards of the opposition goal. And this wasn’t a corner, or another set play, it was just the sheer weight of pressure from open play.

A few minutes earlier, Jack Grealish’s number had flashed up on the substitution board and his reaction told another story. From one side of the pitch to the other, Grealish sprinted off, desperate not to lose any precious seconds.

It was getting seriously tense, in other words, before Antonio Rudiger’s inability to clear his lines worked against his own team. De Bruyne suddenly found the ball at his feet, ten yards from goal.

De Bruyne’s fine finish sent the tie into extra time (PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

A lesser player might have rushed his shot. But come on, when does De Bruyne panic in these moments? That said, he did miss a chance to settle the tie in normal time.

Daniel Taylor

Did City finally work out Ancelotti’s tactics?

It is rare that you see the 14-time champions of Europe playing underdog football, but Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics were effective for long periods.

Knowing the threat that Manchester City pose going forward, they kept a compact defensive structure and allowed City to circulate possession from side to side, and waited for their moment to punch on the counter-attack.

As Madrid shuffled across to plug any gaps, City could not go through the block so they were forced to go around it. Their 30 crosses before extra time were more than any Champions League encounter this season, which highlights how little they were able to penetrate through the centre of the pitch.

There was the occasional trademark De Bruyne runs in behind Madrid’s defence and an enticing back-post chip from Bernardo Silva, but Madrid largely contained City’s threat for long periods.

City persisted and the arrival of Doku was too much for the tired legs of Madrid’s back line. A drop of the shoulder, a bounce and a shimmy, and Doku’s cross was cleared by Antonio Rudiger but straight into the path of De Bruyne who fired into the roof of the net. It was a resilient strategy from City, but they finally found the breakthrough on their 28th attempt.

Mark Carey

Was Doku the difference?

Jack Grealish should not be ashamed by his performance by any means — he was good on the night and brought the kind of things he always brings on that left side — but he was sacrificed for the greater good.

City already had control of the match and Madrid on the ropes, so they needed the kind of spark that Doku is more likely to provide. The Belgium winger has returned to some good form of late after a ropey spell in the New Year, and he had no fear tearing into Madrid with his side needing a goal.

Doku played a key role in the equaliser (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Dani Carvajal had no idea which way he would turn next and even when Doku was not driving to the line himself he had the knowhow to slide in Akanji, who once provided a chance on a plate for De Bruyne, who should have scored City’s second, and almost replicated the chance a few minutes later. City had been pushing for an equaliser ever since they fell behind, but it felt like it was only after Doku’s introduction did they start to get close.

Sam Lee

How will Haaland react to being replaced?

There are always eyebrows raised when Haaland is taken off before the game is won, because this was probably the second time it has happened since he arrived at City nearly two years ago. A lot is always made of his contribution when he is not scoring, and unless that verges into wild exaggerations about League Two there is merit in it.

Haaland had to watch extra time from the bench (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

His hold-up play has not been the best of late, but it remains the case that even when he is not actually contributing with touches, he is forcing the opposition to do something they do not want to do.

Last week he occupied two Madrid defenders, at the weekend he forced Luton Town to abandon their usual man-to-man press. But after the 90 minutes were up here Guardiola elected for something different: the all-action, more-touches style of Julian Alvarez.

The Argentina forward did offer more touches but little of substance, with Madrid absolutely packing the middle of the pitch, and he was less likely to win a header than Haaland, who won a few, but could not make them count. Haaland, of course, is City’s penalty taker.

How did Madrid’s tiredness impact them?

As extra time approached, Madrid looked exhausted. That is perhaps to be expected against a relentless City side, but it seemed things were only going one way once De Bruyne equalised in the 76th minute.

Ancelotti’s defensive plan had worked well up until that point, but from then on Madrid appeared unable to get out of their own half. City began to target Madrid down their right-hand side — where the veteran Carvajal appeared no match for Doku — and the introductions of Luka Modric and Brahim Diaz did not seem to help.

Replacing Vinicius Jr for Lucas Vazquez in the 102nd minute suggested Ancelotti was happy to play for penalties. It has been a long season, but questions will be asked of why Madrid looked so spent as early as the second half.

But it was still Guardiola’s side creating more and testing the limits of Madrid’s defending. And yet, Madrid regularly seem to find a way in this competition. Job done for Ancelotti.

What did Pep Guardiola say?

We will bring you the Manchester City manager’s latest thoughts once he has spoken in his post-match press conference.

What did Carlo Ancelotti say?

We will bring you the Real Madrid manager’s latest thoughts once he has spoken in his post-match press conference.

What next for Manchester City?

Saturday, April 20: Chelsea, FA Cup semi-final, 5.15pm UK, 12.15pm ET

What next for Real Madrid?

Sunday, April 21: Barcelona (H), La Liga, 8pm UK, 3pm ET

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(Top photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images))