London: Joe Hart kept Manchester City’s hopes alive of making it to their first ever final of the Champions League as he kept Real Madrid’s late shower of strikes at bay as the first leg of the semi-final ended goalless.
Real started cautiously, without their star winger Cristiano Ronaldo, with Sergio Ramos and Pepe nullifying early pressing from City’s Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Fernando.
As two teams with insanely potent attack squads went head to head in the first leg, a charged up, all-out attacking game was expected. The match, however, was pretty much placid, barring a surge of late shots at the goal by Zinedine Zidane’s visiting team.
The match came to life only 20 minutes from the time remaining when Bale tried to dart past City’s defenders on various occasions. The real threat to City’s hopes was when Jese headed one against the cross bar, beating Hart. The City goalie, however, showed great reflexes and sparkled with brilliance when he kept away a close-range header from Casemiro with his foot and then put his body on the line of a Pepe scorcher, just five yards out.
Manuel Pellegrini men, playing in their own backyard, were hardly any threat to a rather cautious Madrid. The closest the Blues came to was in the dying minutes when a sharply dipping Bruyne free-kick from just outside the box was kept out by Kaylor Navas, who otherwise had an unexpectedly quiet evening around the net.
City will take the positives from denying Real an away goal but England’s last remaining representatives in Europe’s elite competition still face a huge task if they are to reach the final, in Milan on 28 May.
City will travel to the Bernabeu for the second leg of the semi-final on May 5. Just for the record, Real have not conceded any goal at home in this CL season.
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