Manchester City Treble dreams left in tatters by Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid’

Home » Manchester City Treble dreams left in tatters by Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid’

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti strolled nonchalantly away from a scene of carnage as Manchester City’s Treble dream was left in tatters by the great Champions League survivors.

Ancelotti has seen most things in football – including plenty of success as the only man to win this tournament four times – but even the most famous raised eyebrow in the game must have nudged skywards a little more than usual at the manner of this quarter-final victory.

Real went through 4-3 on penalties after the tie ended 4-4 on aggregate, 1-1 on the night here, but City will wonder long and hard at how they failed to win a game they dominated almost completely.

City have suffered pain in the Champions League before and there will certainly be wounds from the way this frenetic, compelling game was lost.

The immediate task for manager Pep Guardiola is to make sure the fatigue and disappointment left behind here does not spill over into what is now a quest for a domestic double of the Premier League and FA Cup, with a semi-final against Chelsea in the latter at Wembley on Saturday.

At the finale, the great Italian statesman Ancelotti offered a consoling arm to Guardiola, giving the impression this was just another day at the office, which does not accurately reflect a frantic, chaotic encounter.

City’s players slumped in despair as Antonio Rudiger’s penalty secured a semi-final against Bayern Munich, while what seemed like dozens of Real players and officials headed off to their supporters tucked in the far corner of Etihad Stadium.

City thrashed Real 4-0 here in the semi-final second leg last season, revenge for Ancelotti’s side somehow extricating themselves from defeat with two stoppage-time goals before going on to win at the Bernabeu at the same stage in the previous campaign.

In that hammering last term, City had 16 shots to Real’s seven, here they had 33 shots to the visitors’ eight but this time came out on the losing end.

It came down, as it always does at this level, to the finest details and City’s lack of cutting edge stood between them and a victory they deserved on the balance of play.

They even had the early edge on penalties when Ederson saved from Luka Modric but only Bernardo Silva will know what he was thinking when he lazily lofted a dismal spot-kick straight into the hands of keeper Andriy Lunin.

If you give Real an inch they take a mile, Mateo Kovacic’s penalty, again saved by the excellent Lunin, further sealing their fate.

The law of the Champions League states that if you do not kill Real off when you have the opportunity there is every chance you will pay the price. And City have now broken that golden rule twice.

It would be harsh to criticise the Premier League champions’ performance, which was outstanding for so long, pinning Real back with a sustained assault in the second half that was eventually rewarded by Kevin De Bruyne’s 76th-minute equaliser to cancel out Rodrygo’s early strike.

Real were, literally in many instances, run to a standstill until blessed relief came in the shape of the final whistle and penalties.

And this will be the frustration for City and Guardiola, who thanked his players for their efforts but admitted he must wait to see what condition they are in after a gruelling evening on every level.

City’s players have shown resilience and staying power before but they will find the manner of their exit, and the loss of the giant trophy they won for the first time against Inter Milan in Istanbul last season, a bitter pill to swallow.

It will have taken a heavy mental and physical toll, Guardiola admitting De Bruyne and Erling Haaland told him they could not continue, the striker replaced by Julian Alvarez at the end of 90 minutes and the Belgian taken off during extra time.

Haaland suffered another tough night, being kept at arm’s length by Real’s battle-hardened defence apart from when he hit the bar with an early header. There is no shortage of effort from the Norwegian but he is not quite getting the chances he is accustomed to at present.

It was all in sharp contrast to Real , and England’s, golden boy Jude Bellingham on another landmark night in his young career.

This was a testing night for the 20-year-old who has taken Spain by storm this season, suffering just as much as his team-mates and City penned them back and ran them ragged, particularly in the second half.

Among this stress, Bellingham twice demonstrated exactly why he is marked down for greatness, even though he was never allowed to show himself at his best.

Bellingham displayed magnificent technique to pull a pass out of the sky in the build-up to Rodrygo’s goal then, accompanied by a cacophony of jeers from City’s fans, stepped forward to coolly slot home Real’s second penalty after Modric’s miss.

It came after Silva’s failure under pressure and shifted the momentum of the shootout back in Real’s favour.

Real go on, as they so often do, and few would bet against them claiming their 15th win in this tournament’s different guises as the European Cup and Champions League and giving Ancelotti his fifth triumph.

As for City, this will hurt badly but they must bounce back instantly. There is still much to play for.

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