Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid: Citizens edge Los Blancos in UEFA Champions League classic
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 26: Bernardo Silva of Manchester City celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 4-2 during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Leg One match between Manchester City and Real Madrid at City of Manchester Stadium on April 26, 2022 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)

Manchester City put themselves in pole position to qualify for a second successive Champions League final, as they edged past Real Madrid in a classic at the Etihad Stadium.

Story of the match

Manchester City would have been hoping for a fast start against the Spanish champions-elect, and they couldn’t have asked for more, as Kevin De Bruyne got across his man to head home Riyad Mahrez’ deep cross and give the Premier League leaders the lead inside two minutes. Thibaut Courtois left with no chance.

The early goal sparked rapturous scenes inside the Etihad, and those scenes of jubilation were taken up a notch ten minutes later as Gabriel Jesus - fresh off the back of four goals against Watford on Saturday - was the quickest to react to David Alaba’s poor attempt to clear De Bruyne’s deep cross, making no mistake in tucking the ball past the onrushing Courtois to double City’s advantage.

Embed from Getty Images

The hosts were left guilty of missing two guilt-edged opportunities to further their advantage, as Riyad Mahrez fired into the side netting from close range before Phil Foden dragged an effort inches wide of the target. And with Karim Benzema lurking at the opposite end of the pitch, the Citizens were made to pay.

The Frenchman, who scored four goals across their quarter-final tie with Chelsea, is one of the overwhelming favourites for the Ballon d’Or and he showed why. Ferland Mendy’s hopeful ball into the box looked almost certain to surmount to nothing, but Benzema disagreed. The Frenchman’s first-time effort was simply sublime, leaving Ederson helpless.

The second half began in an identical fashion to the first, with Manchester City unfortunate to not further their lead within two minutes of the restart. Mahrez’ effort cannoned back off the post to the chasing Foden, but his first-time effort was blocked by Dani Carvajal as Real Madrid scrambled clear.

City did regain their two-goal advantage shortly after though, as Fernandinho - sent on in the place of the injured John Stones late into the first half - made the overlapping run from his unorthodox right-back role before clipping to the unmarked Foden. The boyhood Manchester City fan wouldn’t be denied a second time, as he powered a header past Courtois from close range.

Manchester City’s two-goal advantage didn’t last long though, as Vinicius Jr’s outrageous dummy left Fernandinho stranded on halfway. The highly-rated Brazilian youngster still had a lot of work to do though, and he did it expertly, racing all of 50 yards before cutting inside to tuck the ball past Ederson and reduce the deficit back to one.

City threw players forward in search of a fourth and that is exactly what they got 15 minutes from time. Oleksandr Zinchenko was brought down on the edge of the box and whilst the majority inside the Etihad waited for the referee’s whistle, Bernardo Silva didn't. The Portuguese midfielder stepped forward and fired an effort past Courtois and into the top corner.

The scoring didn’t stop there though. Real Madrid swung a set-piece into the box only for it to cannon off a stray arm from Ayermic Laporte, leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot. Benzema stepped up and Panenka’d the ball into the back of the net to complete what was an incredible night of Champions League football under the Etihad lights.

Embed from Getty Images

The two sides will meet again next Wednesday, with the Citizens holding a narrow one-goal advantage.