champions league semi final second leg, may 17 2023
Silva (23, 37)
Manchester City produced one of the most devastating displays ever seen in a Champions League semi final to destroy holders Real Madrid and progress with staggering ease into next month's final against Inter Milan. Such was the home side's dominance, the only surprise when Bernardo Silva whipped the opener past the excellent Thibaut Courtois after 23 minutes was that it had taken so long to come. Silva's second, a clever header over the bombarded Courtois, saw Pep Guardiola's team into a 2-0 half-time lead that they never once looked like giving up in the second half. Manuel Akanji's deflected effort with 15 minutes to go finally killed off any lingering Real hopes, with substitutes Phil Foden and Julián Álvarez combining to complete the rout in added time.
“Last season was so painful," said Guardiola after the game, referencing their dramatic late defeat to Real at the same stage of last year's Champions League. "People say it was a lack of character from the players, but one year later we show just how special these players are.
“We spoke before the game to the players, to ask themselves if they want to play against Inter. In the bad moments, ask yourself, and if you do then you will beat Real. They played with the spirit that we needed to do it."
SHOTS / ON TARGET
ATTACKS INTO AREA
EXPECTED GOALS (XG)
Pep Guardiola set his Manchester City team up in a 3-2-4-1 formation in possession, and watched on as they totally dominated the first 30 minutes. John Stones operated in midfield, alongside Rodri; this allowed Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan to push higher with their starting positions in front of them, and support much closer to Erling Haaland (below). Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva held the width, ready to attack around the outside of the Real Madrid back four, but also free to cut inside when appropriate. City’s adapted back line of three was very aggressive in their positioning when in possession, helping lock Madrid in their own half for surprisingly long periods.
City used their wide pairings extremely effectively in a devastating first-half onslaught. Both Grealish and Silva were comfortable holding their width, but when they did cut inside the number eights on their respective sides – Gundogan on the left and De Bruyne on the right – were able to make overlapping runs. The Real full-backs, Dani Carvajal and Eduardo Camavinga, were consistently exposed to 2v1 attacking overloads against City’s wide pairs (below), which eventually forced the wingers ahead of them to drop back in support. It made little difference, with De Bruyne playing Silva in behind the Real back line for City’s deserved opener.
Madrid pressed much higher in the second half, with City forced to build under significantly more pressure inside their own half. Stones playing in midfield meant more of an emphasis on Ederson’s ability to support the build, especially with no consistent connection between Kyle Walker and Rúben Dias. As City built deep inside their own half – especially from left to right, as Karim Benzema locked the play this way – they didn’t always progress cleanly into midfield. Stones and Rodri were now tightly marked by Madrid’s number eights (below), leaving Walker to often receive against the touchline and find himself forced into an out ball into City’s high attackers.
As Madrid had their best spell both with and without the ball early in the second half, City were forced to defend deeper and use a 4-4-2 block inside their own half. De Bruyne and Haaland acted as the two highest players, ready to counter from this deeper block (below). They lacked a consistent connection to threaten the visitors, however – even when Real pressed high, leaving more space for them to attack on the break. City’s deeper defending for longer periods in the second half also meant Haaland and De Bruyne lacked support when going forward, as City were unable to regain the total control they had through the first half. Despite this, Real failed to offer enough of a threat; Haaland was once again denied by Courtois before a late Álvarez goal from a quick transition secured City’s place in the final.
Carlo Ancelotti set his Real Madrid team up in a 4-3-3 shape, with a familiar midfield three of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Fede Valverde. They were totally dominated in all areas for the first 30 minutes of the match, however. Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland pressed Madrid’s two centre-backs, Éder Militão and David Alaba, while also screening and covering access into Kroos as the single pivot. Valverde and Modric were aggressively marked by the rest of City’s central midfield (below), while the City wingers aggressively jumped to affect the Madrid full-backs. The direct ball away from City’s high pressure rarely succeeded for Madrid, with their supposedly dangerous front three unable to secure the ball high up the pitch and completely dominated by City’s back line.
Once Madrid managed to work a period of possession in the game, they focused on their left side and looked to overload the spaces where John Stones recovered into City’s back line. The aim was to pull Stones out of the back line and keep him in midfield spaces (below), which would allow more room for Vinícius Júnior to move inside and attack Kyle Walker one against one. Even with Modric, Kroos and Rodrygo all moving across to the Madrid left – Dani Carvajal provided the width on the right – the visitors struggled to create anything of note. Walker dealt superbly with Vinícius, with Kroos’ crashing effort against the bar Real’s only notable effort in a desperate first half.
In the second period, Madrid showed more of their quality in possession. Structurally, they almost mirrored City’s set-up of the first half. Kroos dropped between the two centre-backs to make a back three when building the attack (below), with the full-backs providing width and a double pivot of Modric and Valverde in midfield. The front three rotated in central spaces, now connecting between the lines for the first time in the match. Coupled with their more aggressive press, Madrid enjoyed their best period of the game and limited City to isolated counter-attacks.
Ancelotti made numerous attacking substitutions in an attempt to force a goal and create an even vaguely tense end to the game. Antonio Rüdiger was added in central defence, with Alaba moving to attack from left-back and Lucas Vázquez introduced on the right. Aurélien Tchouaméni and Dani Ceballos, two more replacements, created a double pivot, with Valverde and Marco Asensio as two number eights supporting Benzema and Vinícius (below) in an increasingly fluid attacking shape that at times looked more like a 4-2-4 than anything else. Although this left some transitional spaces for City to attack after deeper regains, it did allow Madrid to repeatedly find their forward unit much more than in the first half. Sadly for the holders, this was to little effect as they ended the game well beaten.
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Author: The Coaches' Voice