UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals: Mentality Monsters Real Madrid Knock Reigning Champions Manchester City Out On Penalties

Real Madrid Lunin
Real Madrid Lunin

After last week’s 3-3 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, not many doubted Manchester City’s chances of beating Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. In addition to being arguably the best team in Europe, Pep Guardiola’s side also had history in their corner.

Los Blancos had never managed to win at the Etihad Stadium. On their last visit — the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg — they suffered an embarrassing 4-0 defeat and stepped out without making a peep.

Carlo Ancelotti needed to find a way to avoid a similar fate, and thanks to his players’ indomitable desire and boundless commitment, he managed to climb to the top of the mountain on Wednesdsay (April 17). Real Madrid held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw (4-4 on aggregate) at the end of 120 minutes before beating them 4-3 on penalties. With the win, Ancelotti became the first ever manager to knock Guardiola out of the Champions League a whopping three times.

Manchester City Frustrated By Real Madrid’s Rock Solid Defense

Real Madrid had a clear game plan from the get-go. They were prepared to run and suffer but were not going to let the Cityzens overload the final third. City, meanwhile, enjoyed the freedom in the first 10 minutes and tried to turn the screw on the visitors. While the hosts were considerably more dominant, it was Madrid’s Rodrygo who landed the first blow. After brilliantly controlling a long ball, Jude Bellingham squared it to Vinicius Jr. The Brazilian ran down the right flank and squared the ball to Rodrygo, who found the back of the net in his second attempt after seeing Ederson block the first one.

The goal pushed City to put more bodies forward, and for the next hour of the game, they did everything in their power to find a way through. Erling Haaland hit the crossbar with a looping header, there were a couple of miskicks, and Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin made a flurry of saves to keep Manchester City at bay.

The resistance ultimately came down in the 76th minute, as Kevin De Bruyne tapped home Jeremy Doku’s brilliant low cross from the right. Home fans hoped for the floodgates to open, but Los Merengues regained their shape shortly after going down. They held City at 1-1 at the end of 90 and then at the end of extra time, dragging them all the way to penalties.

Andriy Lunin Emerge As Madrid’s Savior On Penalties

Substitute Julian Alvarez stepped up for the first penalty and easily sent Lunin the wrong way to give City the provisional lead. Five-time UEFA Champions League winner Luka Modric took Real Madrid’s first kick and shockingly failed to convert, with Ederson denying him with a low save. Bernardo Silva went next to extend City’s advantage, but the Portuguese’s shot was straight at Lunin, who made an easy catch.

Jude Bellingham scored Real Madrid’s first penalty, finding the bottom-left corner and sending Ederson the wrong way. Former Real Madrid man Mateo Kovacic took City’s third kick, and once again, Lunin came good, denying the Croatian with a strong right hand. After pulling ahead on penalties, Los Blancos did not look back, with Lucas Vazquez, Nacho Fernandez, and Antonio Rudiger all putting away their penalties to fire the 14-time European champions into the semi-finals.

Lunin, who has become Real Madrid’s first-choice goalkeeper in Thibaut Courtois’ absence (ACL), was his team’s standout performer on Wednesday. Over 120 minutes, he made eight saves, recorded 14 recoveries, and delivered 10 long balls. If he keeps this up, the 25-year-old may very well keep his place even when Courtois returns next season.

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