Real Madrid booked their place in the Champions League final with a win over Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabéu on Wednesday. An early own goal by City midfielder Fernando handed Zinedine Zidane’s side a 1-0 aggregate victory; they’ll now play local rivals Atlético Madrid in the final in Milan later this month.
The hosts made an impressively purposeful start to the match, and dictated possession from the off. City, in contrast, struggled to settle into a rhythm, and suffered a big blow after just 10 minutes when captain Vincent Kompany limped off with yet another muscular injury.
It took only 20 minutes for Madrid’s pressure to tell. Dani Carvajal sent the ball down the right for Gareth Bale, whose cross-shot took a crucial deflection off Fernando and into the top of Joe Hart’s goal. Bale wheeled away in celebration, but UEFA later confirmed it had actually gone down as an own goal.
The opener didn’t serve to alter the flow of the match, with Madrid continuing in the ascendancy. They thought they’d doubled their advantage inside the final 10 minutes of the half, though Sergio Ramos‘ scrappy strike was correctly ruled out for offside.
At the other end, Madrid keeper Keylor Navas had almost nothing to do. His only real scare of the entire opening period came in its final couple of minutes, though Fernandinho’s shot from the edge of the area rattled the base of the post on its way wide. Madrid held their lead to the interval, and looked thoroughly comfortable in doing so.
There was no change to the general pattern early in the second half, with Madrid creating a string of half-chances early on. Cristiano Ronaldo had a good opportunity inside 10 minutes of the restart, though he slightly mistimed his jump and Hart was able to make a comfortable save. The Portuguese forward had another attempt a few moments later, but his low drive was smothered at the near post.
City coach Manuel Pellegrini tried to switch things up with the introductions of pacy attackers Raheem Sterling and Kelechi Iheanacho, though to no avail. Madrid hung on comfortably for the victory, and will play Atlético Madrid in the final for the second time in three years.
Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Marcelo, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal; Toni Kroos, Luka Modrić (Mateo Kovačić 88′); Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco (James Rodríguez 67′), Gareth Bale; Jesé (Lucas Vázquez 56′).
Goals: Fernando (o.g. 20′).
Manchester City: Joe Hart; Gaël Clichy, Nicolás Otamendi, Vincent Kompany (Eliaquim Mangala 10′), Bacary Sagna; Fernandinho, Fernando; Kevin De Bruyne, Yaya Touré (Raheem Sterling 61′), Jesús Navas (Kelechi Iheanacho 69′); Sergio Agüero.
1. Competence was enough for Real Madrid
It certainly wasn’t a sparkling performance from Real Madrid, but then again, this isn’t really a sparkling Real Madrid team. Their semifinal performances have been orderly and organized; lacking in a real inventive spark but sufficiently efficacious to beat a City team that aren’t yet really good enough to challenge at this level. Madrid appear to remain below the level of their cross-town rivals Atlético in terms of pure effectiveness, and Diego Simeone’s side may well head in as favorites as a result.
2. Pellegrini still doesn’t know his best team
The imminent arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City sometimes looks a little unfair on the incumbent, Manuel Pellegrini. However, this was the kind of performance that will have City fans delighting in the imminent overhaul. It wasn’t a particularly unexpected selection from Pellegrini, but considering its inefficiency, perhaps that’s the most damning indictment. Sergio Agüero was barely involved, Kevin De Bruyne was marginalized out on the left and Yaya Touré somehow went missing despite being given perhaps the most influential role in the team. A frustrating display all round.
3. Vincent Kompany is cursed
Another match, another muscular injury for Kompany. It’s certainly at the stage now where the Belgian will be wondering if he’ll ever get another sustained spell of games again in his career. Suffice to say, it’s a sad state of affairs, and it could well add further urgency to the Blues’ negotiations for Athletic Bilbao’s young defender Aymeric Laporte.