|Karim Benzema scored the Real Madrid goal|
The champions of the two biggest leagues in the world faced one another with two very different objectives. Real Madrid were looking to qualify for the round of 16 and trying to do so as group leaders, while City were playing for sheer survival in the continental showpiece. A defeat at the Etihad Stadium would have meant that they were virtually out of the tournament. Aware of their opponents’ greater needs and the support given to the English team off of the pitch, Real Madrid started with the premise of keeping possession of the ball and wearing the Citizens down.
Those tactics worked like a charm in the first half for Jose Mourinho, who today became centenarian in the competition. Di María, who along with Khedira was one of the changes to the Portuguese’s starting line-up from the last match, passed from the right in the 10th minute to Benzema who put the ball into the net with his first touch. 0-1. Real Madrid made tournament history by becoming the only team to have scored in 15 consecutive away matches and the Frenchman was up to his old tricks again after his display against Athletic.
From that moment onwards City disappeared from the match and the Whites kept increasing their superiority. In fact, the visitors had three chances to extend their lead in just four minutes. Khedira, very active throughout the match, had the first two following accurate Ronaldo crosses from the left, but both of the German’s shots went wide: the first with his right foot in the 13th minute and the second with his head minutes later. Nevertheless, the clearest fell at the boots of the Portuguese in a move almost identical to the one that ended in a goal at the Signal Iduna Park against Borussia Dortmund. A great pass in behind the centre backs by Xabi Alonso (in Germany it was Özil who made the pass) and the Portuguese found himself alone in front of Hart in the 16th minute. His subsequent chip only failed to produce a goal thanks to the good fortune of Nastasic, who cleared the ball off of the line. The attacking display was forceful and Real Madrid who created almost all of the dangerous moves of the first half, went into the break having had 12 shots (including seven on goal) against only three from their opponents (one on target).
The script of the match changed completely in the second half. Manchester City their lines pushed forward and the match became more end-to-end. The home team, which on 60 minutes had three forwards on the pitch (Agüero, Dzeko and Tévez), went for broke and left gaps at the back that Real Madrid tried to take advantage of on the counterattack. Khedira, following another Ronaldo cross was again close to scoring with his head, but Hart caught the ball in the 57th minute. The warning from the visitors livened up the home team. A Maicon cross-shot found Agüero alone in front of goal at the far post. A miraculous Casillas blocked the shot in the 64th minute and prevented the scores from being brought level.
He could not do the same again nine minutes later. Gianluca Rocchi gave a penalty for a nonexistent Arbeloa shirt-tug against Agüero and also showed a second yellow to Whites’ academy player. The Argentine converted from the sport and Mourinho immediately replaced Benzema, who left the field in some discomfort, with Varane. From then until the end, Real Madrid suffered for 20 minutes with ten men (the referee added five minutes), but earned a valuable draw at the Etihad Stadium which means that they qualify for the round of 16.
Stadium: Etihad Stadium
Goals: 0-1 min. 10 Benzema; 1-1 min. 74 Agüero (pen).