Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Champions League: De Bruyne inspires late turnaround as Man City stun Real Madrid

Bruyne inspires
Kevin De Bruyne (right) celebrates his goal with teammates during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. (AFP)

MADRID, February 27: Kevin De Bruyne orchestrated a dramatic Manchester City comeback on Wednesday as they stunned Real Madrid 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu to put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Madrid looked on course to edge a cagey contest after Isco’s smart finish early in the second half, but De Bruyne teed up Gabriel Jesus in the 78th minute and then tucked away a penalty five minutes later.
A pulsating finish saw Sergio Ramos sent off for preventing Jesus from going clear and Madrid’s captain will now be banned for the second leg at the Etihad Stadium on March 17.
City’s two away goals will make them heavy favourites to go through, even if manager Pep Guardiola was quick to discourage complacency.
“It’s still not over,” he said. “If there is one team that can overcome this it is this club (Real Madrid) with their experience and their history.”
“We know the situation,” said Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane. “We have to go there and win.”
Madrid have now won only one of their last five games, with the Clasico against Barcelona in La Liga to come on Sunday.
“We are on a bad run but we have to get ourselves out of it,” said Zidane. “Sunday is a chance to change.”
Guardiola sprung a surprise by picking De Bruyne up front and leaving Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho all on the bench.
“We played without a proper striker because of the way they defend,” said Guardiola.
“They are so aggressive down the middle and when that happens you have to make the pitch wide.”
His gamble paid off handsomely, even if Nicolas Otamendi made the mistake that led to Isco’s opener while an injury to Aymeric Laporte meant Fernandinho had to be introduced midway through the first half.
Laporte must now be doubtful for Sunday’s League Cup final against Aston Villa.
Sluggish Juventus slump to surprise defeat at Lyon
Juventus’s hopes of reaching the Champions League last eight suffered a blow when the two-time European Cup winners slumped to a 1-0 defeat in their last-16 first leg at Olympique Lyonnais on Wednesday.
Midfielder Lucas Tousart scored the only goal in the opening half to give Lyon, who are bidding to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010, a deserved win.
It was Lyon’s first victory over Juventus, who suffered their first defeat in the competition this season.
Serie A leaders Juventus lacked quality, with Cristiano Ronaldo rarely getting into scoring positions, and they will need to improve in the return leg on March 17 if they are to progress.
About 2,700 Juventus fans travelled from Piedmont, a region neighbouring the coronavirus-hit Lombardy, as the game went ahead as planned despite concern over the virus.
On the pitch, Lyon were at their best, with Houssem Aouar and new signing Bruno Guimaraes inspiring their team.
“We were not the favourites and rightfully so, but we believed that we could unsettle Juventus,” said midfielder Aouar.
“But let’s not get carried away, there’s one full game left.”
Juventus have only won four of their last eight competitive matches and captain Leonardo Bonucci pointed out that the team had improved.
“We messed up our first half, sometimes it happens,” he said. “We gifted one half and they scored at a moment when they were good at hurting us.” (AFP)