Real Madrid

Three reasons why Manchester City lost to Real Madrid in Champions League 2023-24

City boss Pep Guardiola will definitely be in disbelief after what he saw on the field on Wednesday night at Etihad as his team fell short with a narrow defeat despite dominating the whole match. Now, the real question is what went wrong for Man City against Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-finals?

People tend to talk about only luck when it comes down to a shootout in a football game. But, was luck the only factor to send Carlo Ancelotti’s side through to the semifinals of the Champions League instead of the ‘favourites’ Man City? In this article, we will talk about three reasons why Manchester City lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League. 

Man City vs Real Madrid Match Summary

Manchester City, the defending champions of the UEFA Champions League, are out of the competition, thanks to a gritty Real Madrid. The Spanish side, against all odds, silenced the crowd of the Etihad Stadium, weathered the storm, and walked out of the city of Manchester with a hard-fought 1-0 victory, their first ever in the den of City in this tournament. The dream of winning two consecutive UCL trophies remains a dream for the Cityzens after their quarter-final defeat at home. 

The first-leg of this tie ended in a 3-3 draw at Santiago Bernabeu, which saw a scintillating game of football and raised questions on the progress of Los Blancos in the competition. With the home crowd at their back, Man City had an upper hand before coming into the second leg of the fixture.

But Real, the so-called kings of the Champions League, who have won the tournament for a record 14 times so far, ended the hosts’ brief hold on the beautiful silverware after a 4-3 victory on penalties at the Etihad. Despite controlling the game most of the time and pushing Real Madrid players to the limit, throughout the entire 120 minutes, Guardiola and Co. failed to find a winner before going into the uncertainty of the penalty shootout, with the match ending in a 1-1 draw.

Major reasons behind Manchester City’s defeat against Real Madrid

Manchester City
Grealish in despair against Real Madrid (Credit: Twitter)

Reluctance in testing Andriy Lunin

Real Madrid are the only team that can punish you anytime in a Champions League game, let alone a crucial quarter-final clash like this. Man City knew despite their “favourites” tags, they had a mountain to climb at the Etihad, and they started the proceedings in a hurry. However, it felt like they didn’t learn anything from the first leg, considering their reluctance in shooting and testing the Real goalie Andriy Lunin. The visitors’ defense, marshaled by Antonio Rudiger and Nacho Fernandez, neutralized most of the City’s attacking moves for 120 minutes, depicting how organized they were in the back. Kevin de Bruyne found his goal in the second half when the tight defense of Real opened up a bit, with him pouncing on the chance in the penalty box. Throughout the game, there were plenty of moments where the City players were served chances to shoot from outside the penalty box, a tactic that was fruitful in the first leg, with their three goals coming through desperate shooting.

Bernardo Silva, Josko Gvardiol, and Phil Foden found the back of the net through mid-range shooting. Silva, despite playing the whole game, managed only 2 shots which were not even on target. Both Foden and Jack Grealish showed promise with their quick feet but showed no urgency in testing Lunin, with them accumulating only 6 shots combinedly. Surprisingly, no City defender felt they should have a go against Lunin in a crucial game like this. The Real Madrid defence faced bombardments of City corners, but tackled them wisely, with no real pressure posed by the Cityzens during set pieces. Guardiola’s boys took 34 shots, with only 9 of them on target. Lunin had to stay alert all the time, but except for two de Bruyne saves, he completed some routine saves in the match. 

Also read: Man City vs Real Madrid Player Ratings as Bernardo Silva Fails to Score Penalty

Surprising Misses in front of goal

A few years ago, Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola told the press after a Premier League game against Liverpool: “A game such as this is won only by taking chances.” The Spanish manager most probably felt the need to remind his players, especially attackers, of their duties on the field in the midst of missed chances against Real Madrid. Erling Haaland, who was kept quiet by Rudiger at Bernabeu, took 36 minutes to complete his first pass of the game at the Etihad. Additionally, he missed 2 big chances several meters away from the Madrid goal. One of his headers, after kissing the bar, fell gently to Bernardo Silva only to be put wide by the Portuguese international. De Bruyne, the only goal scorer for Manchester City, missed a golden opportunity in front of an almost empty net by sending his disappointing shot over the bar. Foden, who scored a wonder goal in the first leg through a curling effort from outside of the penalty box, miserably failed to convert a half chance into a goal before the interval.

Lack of winning character

Real Madrid’s Bellingham and Man City’s Gvardiol in action (Credit: Twitter)

When Rudiger struck the winning penalty for Ancelotti’s side, it felt like Real Madrid were established especially for games like these, for tournaments such as the UEFA Champions League. Even before Silva and former Real midfielder Mateo Kovacic both saw their shots saved by Lunin, there was no intensity and hunger in their body language. Most of the Real Madrid players were on the field for 120 minutes except Luka Modric, Lucas Vasquez, and injury-returning Eder Militao, but they looked sharp throughout the game, especially during the shootout. Despite missing the first penalty, Real didn’t lose composure and scored the remaining four with perfection. This is the character a team needs all the time when cornered, with no options left. Manchester City lacked the character of the champions on turf unlike Real Madrid, and miserably failed to absorb the pressure of this high-octane clash at the end.

Madrid superstar Jude Bellingham said after the game, “Most teams would fall apart when City get on top of you, but we stood up really well.” This is the mentality the champion teams inflict on their players every day. With agility, perfection, calmness, and clear game plan, Real Madrid managed to win three consecutive Champions League titles. City underestimated a grave danger like Real Madrid by not taking their chances in the match and pushing it to the penalties. 

Also read: Man City vs Real Madrid UCL Clash Spiced Up by Bernardo Silva Penalty Miss