No Ronaldo, no goals as City, Real draw
Champions League top-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo was a frustrated spectator as his Real Madrid side played out a slow-burning 0-0 draw at Manchester City in Tuesday’s semi-final first leg.
Injury prevented the Portuguese superstar from adding to his 16-goal tally and in his absence the visitors were unable to convert the handful of chances they created, with a sensational late Joe Hart save to deny Pepe the closest either side came to a goal at the Etihad Stadium.
As an occasion, City’s first semi-final appearance in the competition was a let-down, but by preventing Madrid from notching an away goal the tie’s underdogs safeguarded their hopes of reaching the final ahead of next week’s return leg at the Bernabeu.
“We played a very intense game and defended well,” said City manager Manuel Pellegrini. “This season we have played very well away. Now we go to the Bernabeu with the same attitude as playing at home. “Real Madrid must attack a little bit more. You cannot take too much from the first leg. We can see from the second leg who will go through.”
Pellegrini, though, will be without David Silva for the second leg after he was forced off by a hamstring injury, while his Madrid counterpart Zinedine Zidane was left sweating on the fitness of Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, who went off at half-time. “I’m happy with the game,” said Zidane, who expressed hope that both his ailing forwards will be fit for the return leg. “We had the ball more in the second half, had a couple of chances. We’re a little bit disappointed, because we possibly deserved more.
“Before this game it was 50-50. I think it’s still the same, 50-50.” City’s semi-final arrival was an event seven and a half years in the making for the club’s Emirati owners and there was a carefully stage-managed attempt to generate an atmosphere prior to kick-off, with fans given blue and silver foil flags and a flurry of streamers greeting the teams.
The star attraction, alas, was on the bench, glowering in a grey Real Madrid anorak. Ronaldo took his place among the visiting officials after failing a pre-match fitness test on a thigh strain. City seemed determine not to let their guests settle into a rhythm and with Fernandinho setting the tempo for their pressing, they did exactly that.
But with neither side able to create any chances, the most notable act of the first half was the departure of Silva after he injured himself in a sliding challenge on Gareth Bale that earned him a booking, which saw 19-year-old Nigerian forward Kelechi Iheanacho join the fray. Benzema, a pre-match doubt with a knee problem, was replaced at half-time by Jese and despite the touchline exhortations of Zidane, who split his trousers for the second Champions League match running, his side could not make the breakthrough.