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Champions League semi-final first leg ends goalless: ‘Manchester City 0-0 Real Madrid’

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Christiano Ronaldo failed late fitness test, misses out on the chance to deny  rivals City as match England keeper Joe Hart denies Pepe with super late save

David Silva was replaced by youngster Kelechi Iheanacho in the 40th minute

All action: Otamendi showed why he proved so costly last summer

Without first choice forwards Cristiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema real madrid got a valuable away poit at Manchester City in a very tight game.  In a  game marked by strategy rather than passion Real Madrid came the closest to scoring with 20 minutes remaining when a header by substitute Jese hit the bar.

man-city-final-wipeout-3Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart does brilliantly to stop a close-range effort from Real Madrid defender Pepe late in the game

hi-res-5e1653ffe55a6be5e5d4e9f42a12a366_crop_northEngland No 1 Hart drops to the turf to keep out Pepe’s strike, which would’ve given Real Madrid a potentially crucial away goal

338ffcae00000578-3560110-real_madrid_forward_gareth_bale_controls_the_ball_as_manchester_-a-77_1461702874590Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale controls the ball as Manchester City midfielder Fernando races towards him at the Etihad Stadium
Photo: Reuters

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was forced to watch the first leg from the stands after failing a late fitness test

Madrid finished much the stronger here. A corner from the right after 79 minutes picked out Brazilian defensive screen Casemiro,  but his header was superbly stopped by Joe Hart, with his feet, in the manner of David de Gea. A free-kick for Madrid on the edge of the area a minute later also looked dangerous but Gareth Bale blasted it tamely into the wall.
From the corner, Hart was forced into the save of the night. The corner was headed on by Bale, it fell to Pepe in so much space he was initially presumed offside. A flag went up, then down, and in that split Hart threw himself at the ball, making a vital save as he smothered Pepe’s shot.

man-city-madrid-006Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany fouls Casemiro as he rises to get his head to a cross from the right during the first half
1461728138_sergio-aguero-manchester-city-luka-modric-casemiro-real-madridSergio Aguero (centre), who used to play for Real Madrid’s rivals Atletico Madrid, lifts his
339027f000000578-3560110-real_madrid_forward_gareth_bale_watches_on_as_his_left_footed_st-a-75_1461702833626Real Madrid forward Bale watches on as his left-footed strike curls just wide of Hart’s Manchester City goal during the second half
33904b2600000578-3560110-image-a-95_1461704781310Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas tips over a free-kick from De Bruyne during stoppage time at the end of the second period

So City have at least a puncher’s chance in the Bernabeu next Wednesday. Score and Madrid will need two. So this was far from a poor result. It was, however, a missed opportunity. This was Madrid at their least potent, yet they came through with barely a scratch. City have to find a way of putting Madrid under at least as much pressure as the seat of Zidane’s trousers.

Marcelo and Gareth Bale of Real Madrid high five

When the injured Silva was replaced by teenager, Kelechi Iheanacho, the warm reception from the home support confirmed this was not considered a maverick call by Manuel Pellegrini. There were no moans, no exclamations of surprise. They wanted the teenager, too.
Up to that point Silva hardly had any influence on the game. IManchester City unable to break down a Real Madrid side that was surprisingly well-organised and content to sit with tight defensivedisplay. They visitors looked like they were content to wait out a draw here and finish the job at the replay in Madrid with a full squad available.
The game missed its star turn, no doubt of that. Ronaldo’s return to Manchester was the snap in the elastic and when his name was missing from the team-sheet, City fans were no doubt torn between delight at his absence, and disappointment at the loss of the spectacle.
It is mixed blessings for City  that the loss of David Silva is not the hammer blow it would once have been to the club in europe, even so what appeared to be a hamstring tweak after 40 minutes could have a longer term effect than a single game. Silva may play no further part in City’s season if the injury is as serious at it looked, and the sympathy he elicited from the away team suggested as much.
Yet if the news is bad for Silva it is possibly worse for Raheem Sterling, fast drifting in mediocrity after his £50million transfer from Liverpool. Sterling appears to have lost his verve and inventiveness, on the big occasion.

Substitute Kelechi Iheanacho watching city goal keeper Joe Hart make a close range save from Pepe

The visitors did not offer much. It was obvious Ronaldo was sorely missed by his side, he is indeed very influential for Madrid on big game nights like this. He has played 36 of the last 37 games in Europe, and the one time he sat out previously, his team went down 2-0 to Borussia Dortmund. without Ronaldo they are missing quite a lot of their fear factor. Ronaldo destroyed Wolfsburg in the previous round, and obviously could have done the same here. He sat on the sidelines, almost distracted. Madrid offered little without him, too, Hart untroubled in the first 45 minutes, Madrid’s routes to goal pedestrian aside from the odd spark of invention from Modric.

kompanybale-cropped_1s46f1s9q6hi41uucx3innr8qqCity captain Vicent kompany marking Real Madrid winger Garet Bale

Not that City dazzled. Kevin De Bruyne is the key to it these days and he saw plenty of the ball but to little effect. In the 23rd minute, he found Aguero who completed a neat turn to take up a good position, but Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas read it well, and kicked clear.
A minute later Pepe was rightly booked for a spectacularly late and rash challenge on De Bruyne, and howls of outrage greeted a lunge by Sergio Ramos that took out Fernandinho soon after. He certainly made contact on his follow through, but replays showed he had taken the ball cleanly first and referee Cuneyt Cakir was right to take no further action against the player.
It wasn’t a dirty game although, before his disappearance, Silva did manage to get booked for a needless foul on Bale. Like the game in the first-half at least, he wasn’t really going anywhere at the time.

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