Real Madrid and Manchester City duked out a pulsating 1-1 draw, with the first leg of the Champions League semi-final ending all square on Tuesday night after a pair of sensational goals from Vinicius Junior and Kevin De Bruyne.
Manchester City dominated possession in a tepid opening half-hour, passing the Santiago Bernabeu into a slumber as Real Madrid were penned back. Some spectators fell into the familiar trap of relating City’s dominance with Madrid’s inferiority.
Others were wiser to Madrid‘s unerring excellence in European competition.
Vinicius lit the fuse of the crowd and the tie with a ripsnorting drive to break the deadlock. Eduardo Camavinga had floated through City’s revered press before setting the Brazilian on his way, becoming the youngest player to provide a Champions League assist in the last 20 years.
When fretting over Vinicius ahead of the contest, Pep Guardiola warned that it “seems he does something every time he touches the ball”. On 36 minutes, that something was some strike.
Carlo Ancelotti described this iteration of Manchester City as “a more complete team compared to last year” but his Madrid side demonstrated exactly how to chisel out an advantage in the first half.
If Madrid had bided their time in the opening exchanges, hanging on the ropes to assess City’s approach before spotting a chink in their defence, the reigning European champions came out swinging with a swagger in the second half.
Yet, in a reversal of roles, City struck back just as Madrid were in the ascendancy. De Bruyne let rip with a venomous swerving crack of the right boot halfway through the second half.
Unsurprisingly, it was De Bruyne that stepped up for City just as they needed it most. The long-serving Belgian found the net at this stage at this grand venue in the last 16 of the 2020 Champions League, carving out a spot for himself in the history books of the competition.
The stakes were so high that even the unflappable Ancelotti raised his voice as well as an eyebrow.
More nerves are set to be shredded with the tie delicately poised at 1-1 heading into the second leg at the Etihad next Wednesday.