Federico Valverde nets late equalier as Real Madrid hold Manchester City

By Sports Desk April 09, 2024

Manchester City face a battle to retain their Champions League crown after being held to a thrilling 3-3 draw by Real Madrid in the Spanish capital.

The holders twice led in an enthralling contest under the Bernabeu Stadium’s new roof but the quarter-final remains on a knife edge after Federico Valverde gave the hosts a deserved share of the spoils.

Bernardo Silva got City off to a flying start but a Ruben Dias own goal and Rodrygo effort sent Real in at half-time of Tuesday’s first leg 2-1 ahead.

Phil Foden equalised for City with a brilliant strike and Josko Gvardiol put them back in front but Valverde had the final word to set up another intriguing contest at Etihad Stadium next week.

City missed the creativity and influence of Kevin De Bruyne who, having been feeling unwell, was sick soon after the team arrived at the stadium.

That forced manager Pep Guardiola to make a late change to his plans and bring Mateo Kovacic into the starting line-up.

The visitors initially seemed unaffected both by that and the raucous atmosphere Real had attempted to amplify by closing the roof at their newly-remodelled 85,000-capacity arena.

They were quickly onto the front foot and were given their early chance to take the lead when Aurelien Tchouameni crudely halted Jack Grealish to earn a booking that will keep him out of the second leg.

With Real failing to form a wall, Silva took full advantage and caught goalkeeper Andriy Lunin napping as he thumped a left-foot shot into the bottom corner after just two minutes.

City went close to adding a second as Erling Haaland had a shot saved from a tight angle and Grealish’s follow-up effort was blocked.

It had seemed the perfect start for City but Real hit back with two quickfire goals.

The equaliser came after a patient build-up as Eduardo Camavinga charged forward and fired a long-range shot that took a wicked deflection off Dias and gave Stefan Ortega – starting despite Ederson’s presence on the bench – no chance.

The hosts grabbed the lead just moments later as Rodrygo broke clear down the left and outpaced the backtracking Manuel Akanji before delicately poking the ball past Ortega.

Real threatened again as Valverde shot at Ortega and Rodrygo put another effort over.

City began to get sloppy in possession as Real upped the pressure. The normally solid Rodri looked laboured and Vinicius Junior tested Ortega before the break.

Grealish cut inside but missed the target as City tried to re-establish themselves early in the second half but Real regained control with Jude Bellingham and Vinicius going close.

Lesser sides could have folded but City underlined their enduring class as they not only weathered the storm but pulled themselves back into the game with a stunning strike from Foden.

The England international, who had been enduring a frustrating game, caught Lunin unaware as he lashed a ferocious strike into the top corner from outside the area after 66 minutes.

It was soon to get better for City as Gvardiol bagged his first goal for the club with an equally thunderous long-range effort five minutes later.

Yet, in keeping with a compelling encounter, it was not to be the end of the scoring as Real responded yet again.

This time Valverde was the player on target as he met a Vinicius cross with a fine volley that flew past Ortega.

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