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Manchester City show their Champions League credentials with creditable first leg draw.

Wednesday 27th April 2016
It has been long, bumpy and often frustrating road for Manchester City in getting to the latter reaches of the UEFA Champions League, an aspiration which has been the end goal for the club's wealthy owners from Abu Dhabi, seeking success in Europe's elite club competition as validation for the billions of pounds they have pumped into City since taking over at the club back in 2008.

City, their owners, and supporters as well had been made to wait a long time for their club to ever turn the substantial investment into significant, tangible success in the Champions League, experiencing plenty of false dawns and underachievement along the way.

Having finally reached the business-end of the Champions League and City have quickly shown that they belong at the top table with the European Elite and have acquitted themselves superbly in the knockout stages of the competition on route to a maiden Champions League semi-final.
Tuesday night's game at the Etihad Stadium against Real Madrid was City's biggest game in the competition to date, and Manuel Pellegrini's team put in an assured, tactically sound performance they can be proud of against one of the super heavyweights of European football, and their 0-0 draw, while far from ideal, still leaves City in with an excellent chance heading into the second leg in Madrid.

The game itself was hardly the most exhilarating contest, but proved to be an intriguing, engrossing, tactical battle throughout, despite a lack of clear cut chances created by either side.

Pellegrini and City can be pleased with how blunted this Real Madrid team, sans the brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo through injury, looked for the vast majority of the game. Real, did of course, produce the game's outstanding opportunity, with Pepe seeing his point-blank effort from Gareth Bale's knock-down thwarted by truly exceptional save from Joe Hart. The City keeper, Hart has been magnificent in City's European campaign this season, and City will remain difficult to score against with the England international in this sort of form.

The return of captain Vincent Kompany was a welcome one for Manuel Pellegerini's City, who it has been well-documented of how they have struggled in the absence of their skipper defensively this season, but here with Kompany in defence alongside Nicolas Otamendi, looked galvanised at the back and produced a display of collective defensive solidity which have been in short supply from Man City for much of this season.

Much of the credit for City's resolute display must also go to Fernando and Fernandinho in City's engine room, who even in the face of the sophisticated passing and movement of Real's terrific pairing of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, managed to produce an effective defensive screen and largely restrict the Real midfielders from finding the killer pass to produce any clear goal scoring opportunities for Real's makeshift forward line.

Both of City's Brazilian midfield duo have been pivotal to City's progression in this season's Champions League, following up impressive displays against Dynamo Kyiv and PSG with another against Real. Fernandinho, in particular, caught the eye with his display here, but another performance of this magnitude will be required in the return leg at the Bernabeu.
Denying Real Madrid an own goal was probably the biggest takeaway for City from the first leg of the tie, but they may well be frustrated at their inability to find themselves a goal during their home fixture against what was an uncharacteristically subdued Real side, who have already scored in excess of 100 goals in La Liga alone this season.

City could well rue drawing a blank themselves, as Real are unlikely to be as blunted in the second leg, and the home crowd in the Spanish Capital will likely be buoyed by the return of Ronaldo to the side, who will provide a more fearful prospect for City's defenders than was on the show at the Etihad.

For Manchester City this was another promising performance and provides further evidence that this a side that is growing as their European campaign progresses and starting to feel increasingly comfortable competing with the best teams the continent has to offer.
Michael Soloman
Journalist. Long-suffering Derby County fan, Lionel Messi and Barca bandwagon-er.

Total articles: 38

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