Manchester City’s first ever Champions League semi-final fixture proved to be a cagey one, as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men will head to the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday knowing a score draw will be enough to send them through, but the lack of chances created in the home leg will be a cause for concern for the Chilean.
The pre-match build-up was dominated by the news that Cristiano Ronaldo had failed a fitness test, and was left out of the Real Madrid squad.
City’s fans seemed buoyed by the occasion, and were riled up in the opening exchanges, as their side lost a lot of 50/50 calls from the referee. Both sides showed a lot of respect for each other, and so these contentious decisions were the only source of early action.
Midway through the first half, Manchester City finally started to get a hold on the game. Sergio Aguero was found by Kevin De Bruyne on the edge of the area but was out-muscled by Pepe, and the Portuguese defender soon went into the referee’s book after hacking down De Bruyne minutes later.
A David Silva cross was headed wide by Nicolas Otamendi, and De Bruyne had a volley blocked by Luka Modric before Silva was substituted after picking up a hamstring injury, which is likely to keep him out of the second leg, being replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho.
From the tunnel, Jese emerged to replace Karim Benzema, as Real Madrid faced a real fight to secure a result without two of their main men.
However, the first chance after the break went City’s way, but Aguero fired over from 18 yards.
With 54 minutes on the clock, Real Madrid finally had their first real chance, and it caused Zinedine Zidane to split his trousers. Toni Kroos’ corner found an unmarked Sergio Ramos, but his header went straight at Joe Hart.
The game faded back into a cautious battle for the next 20 minutes, before Lucas Vazquez’s cross was met by Jese, whose header hit the top of the bar.
City looked nervous, and Otamendi nearly cost his side a penalty when he appeared to trip Vazquez inside the penalty area, but referee Cuneyt Cakir waved play on.
Zidane’s side continued to torment the hosts from corners, but Hart was on hand to stunningly deny both Casemiro and Pepe – with the latter he made himself big to deny the centre-back from six yards out.
Deep into stoppage time, Dani Carvajal brought down De Bruyne with a synical challenge on the edge of the area, but the Belgian wasn’t able to convert the resulting free kick.
All eyes will be on the Spanish capital next Wednesday, as these two battle it out again for a place in the final at the San Siro next month.