Rodrygo unexpected hero, Benzema still there, Guardiola overwhelmed: the ups and downs of Real Madrid and Manchester City

The tops

  • Rodrygo, the star of the evening
Carlo Ancelotti had a hollow nose by sending him in place of Toni Kroos. A resolutely offensive choice that paid off. Not right away of course. But after Riyad Mahrez’s goal, the Brazilian changed everything. In seconds, exactly 91. First scorer on a serve from Karim Benzema, he headed it again in added time to snatch extra time. A magic double. Like the Madrid night.

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  • Karim Benzema, decisive as always

It has long been found very dull. A far cry from the impact he has had throughout this campaign. Too vague for once. And then he finally woke up to be decisive once again. KB9 first delivered an assist on a perfect delivery for Real’s equalizer. And in extra time, he got a foul from Ruben Dias in the box to get a penalty which he obviously converted. History to continue his crazy series in C1 this season. Author of 15 goals in this edition, he scored 10 achievements in knockout matches to equal Cristiano Ronaldo. And he will have one more game to make history.

  • Camavinga, the gentleman no longer on the bench

Again, he came on during Champions League play. And once again, the former Rennais was able to play a key role. Already decisive against PSG in the round of 16, but also against Chelsea in the quarter-finals, Camavinga brought an extra boost when he came into play. The icing on the cake, the midfielder was decisive. Twice. He first shifted Karim Benzema with a sublime opening on Madrid’s first goal. And he then made the difference by going up the ball in overtime on the action where KB9 obtained a penalty. Mister more.

  • Courtois and Mendy, the saviors who kept hope alive (and a bit more)

Thibault Courtois and Ferland Mendy kept Real afloat at the worst time. When the boat could have sunk permanently. In the 87th minute, the former Olympique Lyonnais player first repelled an attempt by Jack Grealish in the wide open goal. And a few seconds later, the same Grealish this time came across a great Courtois, author of eight saves this Wednesday evening!

  • Bernardo Silva – Kyle Walker, at the rendezvous

Returning to everyone’s surprise after three weeks of absence, Kyle Walker did a world of good in the defense of the Citizens, especially in the first period. His duel with Vinícius Júnior has long been one of the keys to the game. And the two interventions of the English international on the Brazilian, including a magnificent one in the 41st, delayed the deadline. Logically tired by the repetition of the efforts imposed by Vinícius, he slowed down in the second half. Worn out, he then asked to leave in the 63rd, which Pep Guardiola refused him as a symbol of his importance before leaving the lawn following contact (72nd). He was one of the most prominent Citizens with Bernardo Silva, who took the game on his own while Kevin de Bruyne was in trouble. The Portuguese, always available and very active, was even decisive on the Mancunian goal.


  • Guardiola, the anti-Ancelotti

However, he seemed to have everything good with his first changes. A few seconds after their entry, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ilkay Gundogan indeed made the difference by being at the origin of the opening of the Mancunian score. But in the end, it was Carlo Ancelotti, who did not hesitate to take out his midfield executive trio, the big winner of the evening. Because Guardiola did not know how to find the words and the solutions to keep his team afloat in the fury of the end of the match. The brilliant Catalan leaves the C1 once again through the back door. And continues its black series in the Champions League. His last coronation dates back to 2011. Another era.

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  • Kevin De Bruyne, an absent conductor

He had radiated on the way out, in the first period. It was not the same story this Wednesday. At Santiago Bernabeu, the Belgian did not shine, as usual. Rarely in the right tempo, he had a lot of waste and did not weigh on the animation of the Citizens. A performance far from his standards and his immense talent. Pep Guardiola did not hesitate to take him out from the 72nd.

  • Jack Grealish, inches away

His story with Manchester City is already not idyllic. But he was unable to take advantage of the Madrid evening to forget the 117 million invested for him. Returning to the 78th, the Englishman nevertheless had the opportunity to silence the critics. But twice he failed. A first time on a rescue that came out of nowhere from Ferland Mendy, then on a narrow save from Thibault Courtois.

Jack Grealish and Ilkay Gundoguan, during the Champions League semi-final second leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City, in May 2022

Credit: Getty Images

  • Casemiro, the feverish rock

His return was expected to bring stability to the Madrid bloc. But Casemiro was especially lucky to stay on the field (and not to take the slightest yellow!) on two fouls on Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden. Struggling in the first 45 minutes, the Brazilian made some adjustments after the break. But Real was taken with madness after his exit (75th), when Carlo Ancelotti decided to take out his old guard from the middle to launch the young people.

Kevin De Bruyne in the duel with Casemiro during the Champions League half return between Real Madrid and Manchester City

Credit: Getty Images

  • Dias – Laporte, squeaky hinge

The Manchester City defense had rectified this season, conceding very little accession. But in this semi-final, it sank, crumbling on all sides. Finally especially in the axis. Already in the tough after the first break, Aymeric Laporte did not shine. Taking a silly yellow a few minutes after the start of the match for an altercation with Luka Modric, the Spanish international is very passive on the second Merengue goal. And his axis colleague was not more inspired for once this Wednesday. Usually so precious, Ruben Dias did not reassure. He is involved on the first goal where he did not follow Rodrygo. And he gave the penalty to Benzema in extra time.

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