In the Zone: Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid performance analysis
Saturday, April 30, 2022
UEFA's Technical Observer panel analyses Manchester City's astonishing 4-3 defeat of Real Madrid.
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Manchester City's thrilling 4-3 semi-final first-leg victory over Real Madrid showcased the attacking qualities of both teams.
From the perspective of Josep Guardiola's side, it highlighted how they attack with genuine width using their wingers as well as their exciting and highly effective transitional play. As for Madrid, it showed once more the qualities of their world-class individual players who are capable of moments of brilliance that can turn any game, as UEFA's Technical Observer panel reflects in this article presented by FedEx.
1-0: Kevin De Bruyne (2)
In the lead-up, City work the ball from right to left, and then back all the way from wide on to the left to Mahrez, stationed out on the right. Cue some light-footed magic from the Algerian who carries the ball past three blue shirts and delivers an inswinging cross. De Bruyne, with a wonderfully timed run and header, does the rest.
2-0: Gabriel Jesus (11)
After a missed tackle by Éder Militão, drawn out to challenge Phil Foden out on the left, the City youngster is able to play the ball back to De Bruyne to cross. City have a three v two in the box and David Alaba's weak challenge enables Jesus to turn on the cross and slot in his 20th UEFA Champions League goal. Alaba, a pre-match doubt with a muscle injury, will make way for Nacho at the break.
2-1: Karim Benzema (33)
Following goalkeeper Ederson's hurried clearance under pressure from Vinícius Júnior, a series of 50-50 challenges concludes with Luka Modrić beating Mahrez to a loose ball and Ferland Mendy, from a deep position on the left, crossing into the box where Benzema produces an exceptional finish, guiding the ball inside the far post on the volley.
3-1: Phil Foden (53)
Fernandinho intercepts a Mendy ball up the flank intended for Vinícius Jr and City counter swiftly. Mahrez sends Fernandinho up the right to deliver an excellent cross met in the middle by the head of Foden.
3-2: Vinícius Júnior (55)
The Brazilian makes amends with a terrific solo effort. After coming short to meet Mendy's ball down the left, he spins behind Fernandinho to gain a clear run from halfway … a run he concludes deep in the City box with a low finish across Ederson.
4-2: Bernardo Silva (74)
Oleksandr Zinchenko is tripped by Toni Kroos on the edge of the box but referee István Kovács plays the advantage and Bernardo profits with a terrific early strike high inside the near post, giving Thibaut Courtois no time to react.
4-3: Karim Benzema (82)
Benzema missed two penalties in a domestic fixture at Osasuna six days earlier. However, with extraordinary sangfroid, he beats Ederson with a Paneneka-type conversion of a spot kick awarded for handball against Aymeric Laporte.
Player of the Match: Bernardo Silva
City's Portugal midfielder took the individual prize not only for his fantastic strike for the fourth goal but for his strong work both defensively – with his pressing – and when City did have possession, with his superb ball retention and forward runs to dislodge Madrid's positioning. As an illustration of his precise use of the ball, he made 25 passes in the final third with 92.3% accuracy (De Bruyne managed 30 passes with 88.6% accuracy).
The UEFA Technical Observer panel said: "He produced an outstanding all-round performance. He pressed relentlessly and used the ball intelligently. His performance was summed up by the outstanding goal and then a clearance in his own penalty area minutes later."
The home side's 4-3-3 set-up featured wingers Mahrez (26) and Foden (47) staying wide and midfielders De Bruyne (17) and Bernardo (20) pushing high into No8 territory, albeit the latter would drop lower at times to receive the ball and create a double pivot alongside Rodri (16). The full-backs generally played from behind the ball and inside in the half-spaces, creating a 2-3-5 attacking shape. Up front, Jesus (9) operated as an orthodox centre-forward.
Out of possession, City's shape resembled a 4-4-2 with De Bruyne joining Jesus higher. Sometimes Mahrez stepped high on to the opposition centre-back while, of the midfielders, Bernardo was more aggressive than Rodri in pushing up to press.
Madrid lined up in a 4-3-3 in and out of possession. Carlo Ancelotti's men were not particularly aggressive in the high press while in possession their midfield players often dropped low to receive the ball outside the opposition defensive block.
Madrid switched to a 4-2-3-1 midway through first half with Modrić moving into a more defined No10 role, enabling his side to match up better in central midfield. This was noticeable again midway through the second half as, out of possession, it allowed Modrić to put pressure on the City pivot, Rodri.
The video above offers an example of how City attack with proper width from their wingers, while their full-backs stay positioned more narrowly in the half-spaces. The example comes from the lead-up to their second goal and it highlights John Stones and Zinchenko – the starting full-backs on the right and left respectively – operating inside as Mahrez and Foden stay out wide.
As the action pauses we see City's attacking shape clearly defined with a back four plus Rodri then ahead of them, a front five – hence the match observer's reference to a 2-3-5. Then, as play resumes, we see Zinchenko inside the centre-circle as he receives the ball from Rodri and sprays it out to Foden as City work the ball from right to left.
Another feature highlighted by the UEFA observer was City's excellent attacking transitions. Both Mahrez and, in particular, De Bruyne excelled here, with the Belgian involved in the majority of the dangerous moments that City caused Madrid. De Bruyne's ability to run at speed with the ball and deliver an outstanding final pass or cross make him pivotal in these defence-to-attack transitions and he ended the match with three chances created (a total matched only by Benzema on Tuesday night).
City had an outstanding start to the game with their pressing high up the pitch and excellent quality of passing and, over the 90 minutes, they were outstanding when it came to pressing as a team on losing the ball. They also showed their ability to play through the opposition press if this is not perfectly co-ordinated.
The fact City will travel to Spain with just a slender advantage showed once more the resilient mindset of Madrid who displayed their precious ability to stay in a game, despite struggling at times to contain their hosts. According to UEFA's observer, the importance of Benzema warrants underlining in this respect for he showed the power of his personality when pressing and demanding more from team-mates. His goalscoring ability, meanwhile, is underscored by the contrast between his xG total of 7.31 and his tally of 14 in this remarkable campaign from the 34-year-old.
Building play from Courtois at the back and through the team, Madrid looked to create attacks through their passing and vision along with the one-v-one ability of their wingers, Rodrygo and Vinícius Júnior, with the latter managing the most take-ons (eight) of any player in this week's first legs.
Modrić had a key role for his outstanding individual technical ability – catching the eye for how he recognises space, receives the ball and the ensuing weight and variety of his passes. With him and Toni Kroos, another wonderfully technical footballer, Madrid have the ability to keep possession of the ball and connect the game well under pressure. Out of possession, though, they were at full stretch at times and missed Casemiro in the defensive midfield role. They will hope to have him back from injury for next Wednesday's second leg.
Josep Guardiola, Man. City coach: "It was a fantastic game for both sides. We did many good things. Unfortunately, we conceded goals and we could not score more. But two games and we have another one in one week.
"We played a fantastic game against an incredible team. The moments where they rise and come back into the game in the first half I think we gave them, as our build-up was so nervous. Normally we are so safe and so good. Also they press really good and strong.
"I am so proud and so incredibly happy at the way we performed. We did everything we could to win and had courage with and without the ball."
Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid coach: "These players don't lose their minds when things are difficult. The first 20 minutes were really difficult, but after that we were able – slowly, slowly – to come back into the game and keep our chance of qualification open.
"We've got a lot of confidence and we're excited because there's the magic of the Bernabéu."