May 16, 2021

Varane howlers send City into CL quarters

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Manchester City capitalised on two Raphael Varane errors as they made it through to the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-1 win over Real Madrid at the Etihad (4-2 on aggregate).

The hosts added to their first leg advantage early on as a lackadaisical Varane was caught in possession on his own byline by Gabriel Jesus, who squared for Raheem Sterling to tap home for his 100th Manchester City goal (9).

It didn’t change much for Real, still needing two away goals to qualify, and they got a first through Karim Benzema’s header from a Rodrygo cross (28).

But it was chaos in the second period as Real continued to mess around with the ball deep in their half, and City eventually killed the tie off as Jesus nipped in to capitalise on a weak Varane header to brilliantly poke home from an angle (68).

Gabriel Jesus celebrates his goal with team-mates
Image: Gabriel Jesus celebrates his goal with team-mates

Pep Guardiola’s City, chasing that elusive first Champions League crown, will now travel to Lisbon for the single-leg quarter-final against Lyon, on August 15.

How Real gifted City passage to last eight

La Liga champions Real hadn’t played a competitive game since July 17, and it showed in the first half with some of the most casual possession seen in European competition this season.

Sterling's opener was cancelled out by Karim Benzema in the first half
Image: Sterling’s opener was cancelled out by Karim Benzema in the first half

Without captain and talisman Sergio Ramos, who was suspended having been sent off in the first leg, Real were poor defensively throughout. Varane dawdled on the ball early on at the touchline, allowing Jesus to rob him, before squaring for Sterling to simply tap home from 10 yards with just Real defender Dani Carvajal on the line.

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Real, still needing two away goals, were continuously caught in their defensive third in the first half, but somehow clawed their way back into the tie.

Karim Benzema
Image: Karim Benzema brought Real back into the game with a fine header

After Benzema had stung the hands of Ederson from 15 yards, the Frenchman got his goal, climbing above Fernandinho and heading into the bottom right corner after some fine work from Rodrygo on the right, floating past Joao Cancelo with ease before lifting a cross in.

Real still weren’t settled though; Phil Foden lashed just wide after Thibaut Courtois’ poor kick was feasted upon by City, before Kevin De Bruyne’s shot direct from a corner was beaten away well by the former Chelsea goalkeeper.

The suspended Sergio Ramos watched on nervously from the stands at the Etihad
Image: The suspended Sergio Ramos watched on nervously from the stands at the Etihad

City had chance after chance after the break as Real struggled to get a grip on the game. First, Sterling was played through on goal by a brilliant De Bruyne through ball, but his left-footed shot was tipped wide by Courtois, before Courtois got down low to block Sterling after Casemiro lost the ball cheaply in midfield.

Raphael Varane made two howlers to gift City goals
Image: Raphael Varane made two howlers to gift City goals

Courtois kept Real in the game again, tipping over Jesus’ shot from an angle, but City got their cushion back from another Real error. Varane got lost under a long ball up, allowing it to bounce, before his weak header back to Courtois was intercepted by Jesus, poking into the net from a tight angle to give City breathing space.

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Phil Foden was rewarded with his fine form since the restart with a starting spot, in a front three alongside Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus.

Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker played at full-back, while Fernandinho was centre-back alongside Aymeric Laporte, with Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne.

Eden Hazard was fit enough to start, with Gareth Bale choosing not to travel with Real. Eder Militao replaced the suspended Sergio Ramos.

Luka Modric saw a shot from the right of the box blocked by Ilkay Gundogan shortly after, but Real struggled to mount any real pressure on the City goal as they made the last eight for the third straight season.

David Silva played his last game for City at the Etihad Stadium
Image: David Silva played his last game for City at the Etihad Stadium

Guardiola said 163 days ago that this tie wasn’t over, but he wouldn’t have expected to wait this long, and his side were helped by some extraordinarily casual play on the ball from the 13-times winners, who despite winning La Liga look a shell of their previous selves in Europe.

Opta stats

  • Manchester City’s victory marks the first time an English side have won both legs in a Champions League knockout tie against Spanish opposition since 2008/09, when Liverpool won 5-0 on aggregate against Real Madrid.
  • Real Madrid have been eliminated before the quarter-finals in consecutive Champions League campaigns for the first time since 2009/10 – they had reached at least the semi-finals in each of the eight seasons between 2010/11 and 2017/18.
  • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is the third individual to eliminate Real Madrid in the knockout stages of the Champions League on more than one occasion, along with Marcello Lippi (1995/96, 2002/03) and Ottmar Hitzfeld (2000/01, 2006/07).
  • Zinedine Zidane was eliminated from a Champions League knockout tie for the first time as Real Madrid manager, having progressed from each of the previous 12.
  • In their 76th Champions League match, Manchester City scored their 150th and conceded their 100th goal in the competition – the fastest to both figures for any English side in the competition.

What’s next?

The quarter-final takes place on Saturday August 15 at Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon, before a potential semi-final on Wednesday August 19.

The final will be played at Estadio da Luz on Sunday August 23.

City now go to Lisbon to face Lyon on August 15
Image: City now go to Lisbon to face Lyon on August 15

Quarter-final draw in full

  • Atalanta vs PSG (August 12)
  • RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid (August 13)
  • Napoli or Barcelona vs Chelsea or Bayern (August 14)
  • Manchester City vs Lyon (August 15)

Semi-final draw

  • Manchester City or Lyon vs Napoli/Barcelona or Chelsea/Bayern Munich (August 19)
  • RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid vs Atalanta or Paris Saint-Germain (August 18)


  • Sunday August 23