UEFA Champions League
Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Ten-time Champions League winners Real Madrid had to settle for a goalless 0-0 draw at the Etihad Stadium.
The visitors were without their club’s record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo and his absence was felt with Los Blancos unable to find the net for only the third time in this season’s Champions League campaign with Zinedine Zidane deploying a more defensive approach.
The match had begun in cautious circumstances with both sides trying not to concede and this meant that chances were rare. In fact the closest the hosts came was when Nicolás Otamendi headed over a David Silva cross following a freekick.
Six minutes before the break the hosts were forced to make an early change with playmaker Silva departing for Kelechi Iheanacho due to injury.
In the 44th minute the visitors had their first real sight of goal when Pepe found Karim Benzema who fired over first-time.
Both sides started the second-half well and the hosts went close when Sergio Agüero received the ball from Fernandinho but the Argentine fired just over the bar.
Madrid were growing into the game and in the 53rd minute the visitors went close when a Toni Kroos corner was met by skipper Sergio Ramos but his header was saved comfortably by Joe Hart.
Twelve minutes later Madrid went close again, Kroos found space to fire an effort that drifted just wide of the post from-range.
Five minutes later the visitors nearly found the breakthrough. Dani Carvajal found substitute Jesé who met the delivery with a powerful header that clipped the top of the crossbar, although Hart had it covered.
In the 74th minute Madrid went close again. Gareth Bale did well to cut inside before shifting the ball onto his left foot to curl an effort just wide of the far post.
Los Blancos were enjoying their best spell of the match and went close to taking the lead when Casemiro’s flicked-header from a Kroos corner forced Hart into a good save with his feet.
Three minutes later Hart was called into action again to deny the Spaniards the lead. Bale flicked-on a Kroos corner that fell invitingly into the path of Pepe who controlled the ball well, before firing a volley that was smothered by the England number one.
In the 90th minute the hosts had a great chance to take the lead. Substitute Raheem Sterling looked set to put City ahead when he was played through on-goal after a deflected Agüero pass, but he was brilliantly denied by Pepe who made a vital last-ditch challenge.
There were two additional minutes and in the second of those, the hosts went close. The hosts were awarded a freekick just outside the area after a cynical challenge from Carvajal on Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian stepped up to take the freekick – beating the wall but was denied by Keylor Navas who made a comfortable save: tipping the ball over the bar with the resulting corner coming to nothing.
The result meant that the tie is in the balance. Madrid are the favourites to beat City at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu with Ronaldo looking certain to return for the second-leg however an away goal in the Spanish capital for Manuel Pellegrini’s side may be the difference for the Premier League side.