It took an in-the-box ninety minute Cristiano Ronaldo shot for Real Madrid to beat Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu this evening. The awkward looking goal occurred because a Man City defender chose to bite on Ronaldo’s fake wide left, leaving the striker a short inside route to a direct shot on goal with his right. The resulting dipper caught Joe Hart flatfooted as the ball bounced too close to him for any reaction.
Real, playing with a makeshift roster thanks to coach Jose Mourinho’s need to exert his control over a team that is performing poorly mostly due to his ineptness, nearly lost the game twice before coming from behind two times to tie and then sealing the victory minutes from the final whistle.
Fortunately for Real they obtained three underserved points at home. Unfortunately for Real, Mourinho will doubtless see his near loss as a vindication of his ill conceived game plan and roster choices. For Man City the silver lining is in the two away goals. If they can win 1-0 or 2-1 at home they will eliminate Madrid.
The game began in a unexpected fashion as Man City seemed unaware or unwilling to take advantage of Real’s club house and on-the-pitch disarray. Missing the likes of Mesut Ozil and Sergio Ramos in the starting line-up Real still had the lion’s share of the chances thanks to some well taken shots by Ronaldo, the man of the match. But for all the Madrid chances the 0-0 half time score was well earned by the visitors.
The lack of creativity or play continuity in Real’s game necessitated Ronaldo’s individual efforts. But Man City never seemed to notice how disoriented their host were. By the time the visitors woke up to their own chances, they too were stuck in idle offensively. David Silva and Carlos Tevez, for example, never hooked up for a meaningful play the entire game.
The second half saw a flurry of scores from the 69th to the 90th minute (http://bit.ly/Ullt3v), and for each Man City goal Real, somehow, seemed to have the answer. The opening goal was a well taken Edin Dzeko mid-stride strike that left Iker Casillas sprawled. Parity was obtained via a Marcelo right footed shot from just inside the box when Man City seemed to assume the left footed Brazilian lacked the other leg. The visitor’s second goal bounced by Casillas who thought the free kick cross would be deflected by Xavi Alonso. When the sliding Alonso missed, the ball was fast bouncing past any goalkeeper’s stretch.
To culminate a night of bizarre play, the often maligned Benzema showed some class when he and his team most needed it, two-touching an 18-yard turnaround and slotting it just past Hart’s outstretched hands. Thereafter, Real began to believe in itself and it seemed a matter of time before the winning score would come. Man City seemed unable to clear its lines and the Madrid side sent wave after wave of attacks. The statistical probabilities generated by the constant possession and attacks finally bore fruit and Ronaldo’s score seemed to bring a longed-for happy smile to all Madridistas.