Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid: Player Ratings
The Champions League returned with a mouth-watering clash as Manchester City hosted 13-time champions Real Madrid at the Etihad for the first leg of the semi-finals.
The game promised to be one for the neutrals, and certainly delivered as the hosts ran out as the winners in a seven-goal affair.
While City took a two-goal lead early on, the individual brilliance of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr. got Madrid back into the tie and in a fighting position ahead of the second leg.
Following this thrilling game of football, Madrid Universal runs the rule over Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 6
Courtois made just the one save today, but could not be blamed for three of the four goals conceded. One would have expected him to heroically reach the fourth, one, though. Alas.
Daniel Carvajal: 7
Carvajal had some trouble dealing with the triple threat of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Kevin de Bruyne, but covered well by making an excellent goal-line clearance.
Eder Militao: 4.5
Far from Militao’s best game as he was run ragged by Gabriel Jesus and de Bruyne. Was careless while defending against Riyad Mahrez on multiple occasions in the second half and was dragged completely out of position for the second goal.
David Alaba: 4
Was at fault for Jesus’ goal in the 11th minute, and was fortunate that Zinchenko and Mahrez did not take their chances. Got subbed at half-time due to an injury scare.
Ferland Mendy: 7
Yet another Madrid defender who made careless errors tonight. The Frenchman rushed into a careless challenge while defending Mahrez, eventually leading to Phil Foden’s goal. Got two assists, though, which have to be credited.
Federico Valverde: 6.5
One of Valverde’s more average outings tonight. He was evidently uncomfortable against Zinchenko and de Bruyne’s duo, and, offensively rather invisible.
Toni Kroos: 6.5
Kroos started the game as the pivot and naturally was not sharp enough defensively. Not much can be made of his game, though.
Luka Modric: 7
By far and large Madrid’s best midfielder on the night, Modric was energetic throughout the 90 minutes and caused problems for Fernandinho and Bernardo Silva often.
Had a shot early on, but otherwise pretty passive.
Karim Benzema: 8.5
Benzema is the master of creating chances out of nothing, and the first goal stands proof of the same. Mendy’s cross was accurate, but on the volley, on his weaker foot, it was barely a half-chance. The ball did eventually roll in. The panenka penalty was just the cherry on the cake.
Vinicius Jr: 8
Vinicius was well controlled by Ruben Dias for the most part, but he got one chance to break through and ran more than half the length of the pitch to bury his chance.
Nacho Fernandez: 6
Could have probably done better for the Foden goal, but otherwise did well to cover for the injured Alaba.
Eduardo Camavinga: N/A
While he had nearly 20 minutes to make his mark, Camavinga did not do enough to warrant a rating.
Dani Ceballos: N/A
Did not do enough to warrant a rating.
Marco Asensio: N/A
Did not play enough to receive a rating.
Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona on their first trip to Spotify Camp Nou after more than a year.
The Catalans had not won against the Merengues at home since 2018 ahead of the game but a clutch goal from Franck Kessie helped them turn around the record.
Vinicius Jr opened the scoring early in the game by forcing an error and own goal from Ronald Araujo. The hosts levelled the score in the 45th minute through Sergi Roberto, before the winner arrived in stoppage time.
The game was not without its share of controversy as Real Madrid had a goal disallowed for offside that Ancelotti felt was unfair. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fourth Clasico of the season.
1. Quality of full-backs
Real Madrid have etched their names into history as one of the most deadly counter-attacking teams in world football. Their pacey transitions and shifts of play have traditionally progressed through the wing with unreal speed to catch the opponent off-guard even in a momentary lapse in concentration.
Needless to say, the full-backs have always worked in tandem with the team’s wingers to make such speedy counters possible. The glaring problem at Real Madrid currently is that their full-backs do not provide half as much as they need to.
Los Blancos’ counterattack now seemingly consists of only Vinicius Jr on the left wing making a quick transition to find Karim Benzema. With just one outlet, it is difficult for the men in white to be effective.
The story at Spotify Camp Nou was very similar. Dani Carvajal started as the right-back and had a good showing defensively. Yet, he was virtually absent in the final third and left Real Madrid’s right-wing lifeless. In ninety minutes, he managed no crosses or long balls and had just one key pass.
The story at left-back was equally, if not more abysmal. Nacho Fernandez was the candidate deployed in the position and could also not manage a single cross, long ball or key pass on the night. He was eventually substituted for Ferland Mendy but the Frenchman could not do much either.
The difference in the quality of full-backs between Barcelona and Ancelotti’s side is gaping. The Catalans blazed through the wings on the night with Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde who constantly got forward in attack to stretch the men in white. In response, Real Madrid had nothing.
2. A dead right-wing and lack of intensity
It is imperative for any top football team to have the resources to attack both wings, for it is the constant switching of play that triggers errors from the opposition. For a club like Real Madrid to not have such resources is criminal.
The game against Barcelona was completely predictable given that the Merengues’ right wing was nonexistent. Any attack, almost surely, had to come down Vinicius’ wing and this made Barcelona’s defensive work easier.
Dani Carvajal was barely involved in the final third against the Catalans. That, coupled with Federico Valverde’s atrocious showing as the right-winger removed one side of the field from Real Madrid’s game.
Valverde made just 27 passes in 76 minutes and failed to make a single cross on the night. Further, he recorded just one key pass and one accurate long ball in El Clasico.
When Marco Asensio came on for Los Blancos, the equation completely turned around. The winger came on as a direct replacement for Valverde and happened to score the disallowed goal that was millimetres from giving Real Madrid three points.
More importantly, the move for the aforementioned goal was completely down the right flank, a testament to the alarming situation.
3. Goodbye La Liga?
When the clock at Spotify Camp Nou struck 81 minutes, the race for La Liga seemed to be on. Real Madrid had just scored a possible winner and had cut short their deficit with Barcelona to just six points.
Ten minutes later, the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Their lead atop the league standings was suddenly twelve points with just 12 games to go.
History is witness that counting out Real Madrid does not fare well. However, it is difficult to surpass the supposition that the 12-point gap is too wide to bridge.
Los Blancos will continue to fight in the league, but Ancelotti will likely preserve his weapons for the UEFA Champions League where they face a bigger chance at glory.