Real Madrid 3-1 Man City AET (6-5 agg) – (Rodrygo 90′, 90+1, Benzema (p) 95′ | Mahrez 73′)
Real Madrid hadn’t yet fallen behind to Manchester City when Carlo Ancelotti summoned Rodrygo from the bench to play the role of difference-maker.
Within a matter of minutes after his introduction, Riyad Mahrez had fired City into what everybody had – naively – assumed would be the decisive goal in what had been an engrossing Champions League semi-final.
Rodrygo had other ideas. With the 90 minutes on the clock, the Brazilian was on hand to set up a nerve-jangling ending, tapping in at the far post after Karim Benzema had knocked the ball across goal.
And in the blink of an eye, the comeback, another comeback was on, this time Rodrygo nodding into the top corner with the aid of a deflection. It was the first time in the competition’s history that a player had scored twice in the 90th minute and were it not for the broad frame of Ederson, he could have had a hat-trick with the City ‘keeper sprawling to keep him out and force extra-time. Nobody is ruing the loss of away goals now.
Within a few minutes of extra-time, Real had taken the lead. Of course they had. This time Benzema doing the damage from the penalty spot. It was the Frenchman who settled it, but Rodrygo who really won it. His tide-turning intervention gave Real life and extinguished City’s.
Rodrygo wasn’t around when many of this squad were collecting one Champions League trophy or another. Real’s scouts must have a knack for locating players with sizeable cojones. A couple of La Liga crowns aren’t to be scoffed at, but the 21-year-old has been peripheral to each success, the least-heralded of the Brazilian superstars of tomorrow.
Vinicius Jr was electric across both legs, but finally his compatriot has joined him on the big stage. Much to City’s lamentable cost.
Bernardo Silva’s was City’s star on a painful night
Just imagine if Diego Simeone had got his hands on Bernardo Silva last summer.
It seems incredible now that Manchester City were open to the idea of letting their diminutive Portuguese genius, who plays the game as if the ball is superglued to his left foot, return to the Iberian peninsula. Atletico Madrid were frequently mentioned as the main suitors for his signature, presumably with the aim of turning him into world football’s most technically gifted s___house.
Equally baffling is that City finished 12 points clear in the 2020-21 Premier League table despite Silva starting just over two-thirds of their matches. City’s squad is so strong that star players elsewhere suddenly become flashy bit-parts at the Etihad; English football’s first £100m player Jack Grealish, introduced as a 78th-minute substitute at the Bernabeu, is an obvious example, but there are plenty of others.
Only those who provide obvious moments of brilliance, like Kevin De Bruyne or acts of bravery like Ruben Dias, are usually singled out for praise. Other exceptional talents merely blend in. Silva is one of them. Pick him out of this line-up and plonk him into virtually any other in Europe and he would be the headline act.
It was telling that as City sought to solidify their aggregate advantage over the La Liga title winners, Ilkay Gundogan was summoned to replace De Bruyne and not Silva. Watching De Bruyne toil made for an uncomfortable viewing experience.
But it was absolutely the right call. Within a matter of minutes, Silva had floated his way through Real’s half and teed up Riyad Mahrez. The assist was a just contribution for a player who would have been a shoo-in for the Man of the Match award were it not for Rodrygo’s last-gasp dramatics.
Real Madrid (4-4-1-1): Courtois 7; Carvajal 6, Militao 6, Nacho 6, Mendy 7; Valverde 7, Casemiro 6 (Asensio 6), Kroos 6 (Rodrygo 9), Vinicius Jr 8; Modric 7 (Camavinga 8); Benzema 7 (Ceballos 6)
Man City (4-3-3): Ederson 6; Walker 7 (Zinchenko 6), Dias 7, Laporte 6, Cancelo 6; Rodri 7 (Sterling 6), De Bruyne 5 (Gundogan 6), Bernardo 8; Mahrez 7 (Fernandinho 6), Foden 7, Jesus 6 (Grealish 6);