Five talking points – Manchester City 1 Real Madrid 1
The fans at the Etihad Stadium last night were, for long spell of time, as pessimistic as their Italian manager. Madrid, on the other hand, were pumped in their early exchanges, as the side attempted to break the offside trap of the home side on more than one occasion. With Ronaldo and Di Maria exploiting the space on the wings against a 3-man City defence, Madrid were always fancied to open the scoring in the first half. With Di Maria getting the better of Maicon, Benzema did make the home side pay on the 10 minute mark. Yet at the end of first half, City were deemed to be lucky only to have conceded one goal against some rampaging play from the Madrid’s attacking triplet. Madrid failed to make most of their opportunities again this season which inadvertently led to another draw this season – a pattern Mourinho would look to see off before the knockout stages of the competition.
Although Mourinho was pretty upbeat in the post match interviews, he would have hoped to have secured an easier road towards the business end of the competition. With the 2nd spot confirmed for the Spanish giants, the Madrid manager and his side may face the likes of Manchester United, Schalke or even Bayern Munich in the round of 16 – Yet the manager seemed unfazed by the challenging prospects he may deal with in February. In fact, Mourinho was quick to suggest that it was a good omen for his as the last two times the Portuguese lifted the coveted trophy was on the back of a 2nd spot finish in the group stage.
The game always asked for a superhuman performance from the City side but for most of the game, Mancini’s lads looked to have been caught in a lost battle. The defence was ripped apart by some incisive play from Madrid and it was only when Arbeloa was sent off in the build-up of Aguero’s equalizer that City had a chance to snatch an unlikely win on the night. Yet, Mancini showed no intent to create a turnaround as the fans watched a 10-man away side dominating the English champions. In fact, to make it worse, Mancini would take Aguero off for Milner to highlight his managerial incapability on the biggest stage of club football. It’s sad when he dismisses City’s chances to compete on level terms with the elite in the Champions League. Probably it’s not the side but the incompetence of the manager that may lead to a win-less European campaign this season.
It’s been more than 3 years since the Portuguese star’s last visit to Manchester – even when it was staged on an unfamiliar turf and in front of an unwelcoming Cit contingent, the Madrid superstar did put up a formidable show of his talent. Though Ronaldo would have loved to add to his growing tally of 19 goals this season, the 80mn man had a night where he hardly put a foot wrong. The precision in his passes was well mixed with a hint of cheekiness, as Ronaldo flicked, turned, and dazzled on the pitch – at times reflecting the gulf in class that separated the two sides for most of the 90 minutes.
After a surprisingly unsurprising sacking of Di Matteo, all eyes are now on whether Man City would seal a similar fate for their Italian manager. However, Mancini remains confident that he will be backed by the owner with his eyes firmly set on retaining the league crown with the side. In the midst of all the drama off the field, it would be intriguing to see if Mancini would contest for a win at Dortmund that could book a Europa League spot for his side. The Man City manager has been one of those managers who have labeled the second-tier European competition as an unwelcomed distraction and with the League title now becoming crucial to his performance evaluation at the end of the season, the Italian may not go all-out for a win. Although before he could even think about that game in a fortnight, he must first ensure that he survives on the managerial hot-seat at the Eithad Stadium.