Stunning strikes from Vinicius Junior and Kevin De Bruyne in either half of the match saw Real Madrid and Manchester City finishing a classical 1-1 draw in a high-quality first-leg semifinal of the Champions League at the Santiago Bernabeu. Manchester City was beaten in Madrid in dramatic circumstances in last season’s semis by the defending champions but began tonight by dominating the action.
City started strongly, controlled the game well, and dominated the proceedings to create chances to score an opener. But Madrid’s deep-sitting defense, featuring Antonio Rudiger in for the suspended Eder Militao, was largely able to restrict City to half-chances. Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois produced some brilliant saves to deny De Bruyne and Rodri before a couple of routine stops from Erling Haaland.
The title holders Madrid played brilliantly to withstand City’s dominance in the first half before Vinicius found the net with an unstoppable long-range effort in the 36th minute. After Ruben Dias made a goal-saving block to thwart Karim Benzema, Madrid went ahead with their only shot on target in the first half.
Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, who played in an unusual left-back role, drove forward from deep inside his own half before feeding it to Vinicius, who took the ball onto his right foot and unleashed an unstoppable strike past Ederson from 25 yards. The Brazilian winger’s goal stunned the Premier League leaders and cracked their momentum. Madrid held on to the 1-0 lead before going into the break.
Madrid continued to play an attacking game in the second half. Madrid star striker Benzema came close to scoring his 21st Champions League goal with a left-footed shot but the ball went just over the bar. Madrid made an aspiring penalty appeal for a handball against City winger Jack Grealish but the match referee waved away.
However, City did not flop under the pressure. In the 67th minute, Rodri crucially intercepted a pass from Camavinga deep inside Madrid’s half, Ilkay Gundogan laid the ball off to De Bruyne and the Belgian midfielder produced a blistering low drive from distance to outfox Courtois and leveled the score for City.
Madrid still had an excellent opportunity to get the advantage for the second leg but Ederson produced a one-handed stop to keep out a far-post header from Benzema as City extended their unbeaten streak in all competitions to 21 games. The second leg of the semifinal will be played in Manchester next Wednesday, May 16.