Manchester City finished off the job they started back in February by deservedly overcoming Real Madrid to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
Pep Guardiola’s side will now face Lyon in the new one-game knockout format in Lisbon, having inflicted Zinedine Zidane’s first elimination from the Champions League after winning the tournament three times.
It was a win City fully merited as their intense pressing game forced Real into mistakes, with France World Cup-winning defender Raphael Varane unable to cope with the pressing of Gabriel Jesus in particular.
He robbed Varane to set up Raheem Sterling in the ninth minute but Karim Benzema’s towering header before half-time set up the possibility of a tense second period.
City, though, created the better opportunities in an excellent performance as Real missed the leadership and nous of central defender Sergio Ramos, suspended after being sent off in the first leg.
Without Ramos alongside him, Varane made another error when his headed back-pass fell short of Thibaut Courtois to allow the lurking Gabriel Jesus to pounce in the game’s decisive moment after 68 minutes.
Relentless City too strong for Real
City’s superiority over Real was actually more emphatic than the scoreline suggests.
From the opening seconds, with Phil Foden in an advanced role and the Spanish champions unsettled by the mobility of Sterling and Jesus, City’s relentless pressing and sheer intensity gave them control.
It was epitomized by Jesus – who hounded Varane into submission – but City had stars all over the pitch, with Kevin de Bruyne producing some brilliant passes and Kyle Walker positive in defense and attack.
Goalkeeper Ederson was faultless when called upon and there were few signs of the defensive frailties that have undermined them in the Premier League this season.
The Champions League has always eluded City and has been out of Guardiola’s reach since his glory at Barcelona – but if this quality and discipline can be maintained, this could be the season that all changes.