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MOTD: Real Madrid 1-0 Manchester City (1-0 agg)
Manchester City had a tough act to follow. Yesterday, Atletico Madrid upset Bayern Munich in a fantastic display at the Allianz Arena to nick their spot in the Champions League final just twenty four hours after Leicester City completed the greatest Premier League season ever by capturing the title.
City were presented the opportunity to clinch a trio of upsets at the regal home of the most successful team in the Champions League. If they were inspired by Leicester and Atletico, though, or indeed by their own inspiring journey to the Champions League semifinals, they failed to translate that into their performance on the night.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men exited the competition with a timid whimper and the scoreline was hardly representative of the extent of Madrid’s dominance. City hardly threatened Madrid’s first half lead and their big names failed to show up yet again.
Sergio Aguero has failed to score in his last five Champions League appearances and hasn’t managed as much as a shot on target in his last 522 minutes of European action.
In that respect, this was similar to the scoreless first leg in Manchester. Yet City’s defense caved just two minutes after injury Vincent Kompany was forced off the pitch as Bale’s cross deflected into the net off of Fernando.
The victory gives Madrid their second berth in the Champions League final in three years and sets up a repeat of the 2014 final against Atletico Madrid. It will be Real’s record fourteenth Champions League final and they haven’t been defeated in their four final appearances since the rebranding of the competition in the early nineties, despite barely escaping defeat in their most recent final.
Tonight, however they never remotely looked like losing. Early on, Cristiano Ronaldo, returning from injury, floated in the air to meet Dani Carvajal’s cross, but couldn’t find the target with a towering header at the near post.
It took only twenty minutes for Madrid to break the deadlock, when Carvajal slipped Bale in down the right side of the box and the Welshman’s low cross deflected off of Fernando and in off the post.
Fernandinho arrowed a low effort just wide of goal from the edge of the box, but City had little in the way of going forward. They ended the night with just a single shot on target and their only other chance of note was Sergio Aguero’s superb long-range effort late on, which whizzed just over the crossbar.
Madrid had ample chances to bury the game, but Joe Hart yet again came up big to deny the home side. Modric ghosted in behind City’s back-line on the end of Bale’s clipped ball, but Hart came out to make the block midway through the second half.
Zinedine Zidane’s men had another goal disallowed and Bale so nearly put the tie to bed in the eightieth minute, rising up to meet Modric’s corner at the near post. Although Bale’s near-perfect header skimmed off the bar, City failed to muster any sort of comeback despite the introduction of Raheem Sterling and Kelechi Iheanacho and their golden opportunity frustratingly drifted away.