Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior and Manchester City’s Erling Haaland were relaxed and laughing as they embraced after the final whistle at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
They both seemed satisfied following an even first leg that ended in a 1-1 draw and left the Champions League semifinal wide open going into next week’s return match in Manchester.
Vinícius and Kevin de Bruyne scored with long-range strikes in a match in which Madrid’s defense successfully kept Haaland — the Champions League’s leading scorer — from being decisive.
“I think both teams have the feeling that it was a good result,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who took charge of his 190th Champions League match as coach. “Maybe we played a bit better to deserve a victory, but it’s a series that will be even until the last minute.”
Madrid beat City in last year’s semifinals and went on to win a record-extending 14th Champions League title while the English club again fell short of European success.
“It was an even match,” City coach Pep Guardiola said. “They scored when we were better and we equalized when they were better. It will all be decided in Manchester.”
The first leg of the other semifinal between Italian rivals Inter Milan and AC Milan is on Wednesday. “Both teams played well. It’s a good draw,” Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said. “There’s everything to play for next week.”
City controlled possession but couldn’t translate it into significant scoring opportunities. Haaland wasted a few chances early but wasn’t much of a threat throughout the game at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
The Norwegian came into the match having scored 12 of City’s 26 goals in the Champions League this season and was five short of Cristiano Ronaldo’s single-season record of 17 for Madrid in 2013-14.
Vinícius created problems for the City defense and opened the scoring in with a shot into the top corner in the 36th minute for his seventh Champions League goal this season. The Brazil forward picked up a pass by Eduardo Camavinga and used one touch to set up his right-footed shot from outside the area.
City struggled to come close to Madrid’s goal but De Bruyne found the net in the 67th with a powerful one-timer from outside the area after Madrid lost possession because of a poor pass across the field by Camavinga.
Madrid complained that it was not awarded a corner in the buildup of City’s goal. “It was a shame that we conceded that goal,” Madrid midfielder Luka Modric said. “I think we deserved more. They had more possession but didn’t create a lot of chances. It’s still 50-50 and we will go into the second match with confidence.”
Haaland had not yet joined City when it lost 6-5 on aggregate to Madrid in last year’s semifinals. Vinícius, Rodrygo and Karim Benzema combined for all of Madrid’s goals that time.
Madrid is making its 11th semifinal appearance in 13 seasons and is trying to win its sixth title in 10 years. City played in its first Champions League final two seasons ago, losing to Chelsea.
Madrid, which won the Copa del Rey title this past weekend, is virtually out of contention in the Spanish league and can fully focus on the semifinal against City. The English side remains in the middle of a tight title race in the Premier League. “Manchester will be like a final in front of our own fans,” Guardiola said.—AP