Man City must learn Real Madrid lesson for Premier League title race and Bernabeu trip
Manchester City’s Champions League semi-final first leg clash with Real Madrid will go down as one of the greatest matches in the competition’s history, if not in the history of the game.
City’s 4-3 victory had everything: goals (seven of them), incredible individual performances, as good an attacking team performance as you are ever likely to see, big names, moments of delirium and moments of disbelief.
There is an irony to the fact that in one of the best games in living memory, three of the seven goals were enabled by an individual mistake, while at least two more could potentially have been avoided if a defender did something slightly differently.
Starting with the mistakes: the usually reliable David Alaba managed to get the ball stuck under his feet, presenting Gabriel Jesus with a clearest sight of goal he’s ever likely to see. Fernandinho, standing in admirably at right-back after John Stones was withdrawn through injury, fell for Vinicius’ trap on the halfway line and could not recover.
Aymeric Laporte should know better than to jump with his hand in the air, regardless of the fact that he did not intend to handle the ball in the penalty area.
Then there’s the ‘could-have-done-betters’: Oleksandr Zinchenko played with superb intensity and desire all night, but in the one moment he was slightly slow in challenging for the ball, Karim Benzema took full advantage and produced a magnificent finish. For City’s opener, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde’s breakdown in communication allowed Kevin de Bruyne to ghost into the box and head home.
In the biggest of matches when elite footballers are going toe-to-toe, the smallest errors, the slightest of missteps, can have a disproportionate impact on proceedings. When the stakes are so high you have to be bang-on the money with every single action, and if not, you get basketball-esque scorelines and thrilling games for the ages.
It’s fair to say that that is not what Pep Guardiola and his side want in the second leg in Madrid next week, nor is it what they want in any of their five remaining Premier League games.
City know that if they win their last five outings – Leeds, West Ham and Wolves away and Newcastle and Aston Villa at home – then they will be crowned Premier League champions for the fourth time in five seasons. Liverpool will be lying in wait though, and given the recent form of Jurgen Klopp’s side, it’s hard not to see them romping to the title if City drop points in even just one of their games.
From their thrilling defeat of Los Blancos , City must learn to cut needless, easily avoidable mistakes out of their game. Yes, none of those aforementioned teams are as ruthless and as talented as Madrid, and so might not punish City in the same way. But if City repeat those minor failings in the league and in the second leg against Madrid, then they could find themselves left behind in the two competitions they are widely tipped to win.
Given how good City have been this season, that would be a terrible shame.