Sergio Ramos after he was sent off by the referee.(Photo- AP)
Madrid: With two late goals in five minutes, Manchester City turned the tables on Real Madrid and boosted its chances of finally winning an elusive Champions League title while it can.
Gabriel Jesus scored an equalizer in the 78th minute and Kevin De Bruyne netter an 83rd-minute winner from the penalty spot as Man City came from behind for a 2-1 win over Madrid in the first leg of the last 16 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Wednesday.
“It’s a great satisfaction to be able to win at the Bernabéu,” Man City coach Pep Guardiola said. “We are not used to these types of results. It shows that we can go to any stadium and win.”
City is likely playing in its last Champions League before having to serve a two-year UEFA ban from European competitions for breaching financial regulations and failing to cooperate with investigators. The club has yet to win a Champions League title despite the heavy spending that helped it win two straight Premier League crowns under Guardiola, and was eliminated by Tottenham in last year's quarterfinals.
Francisco “Isco” Alarcón opened the scoring in the 60th for Madrid, which played the final minutes without defender Sergio Ramos after he was shown a straight red card for a foul to stop an 86th-minute breakaway by Jesus.
“Those last 10 minutes changed the game,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “We played a good match, it hurts to see those mistakes in the end. We didn’t deserve that, but in football you have to be fully focused for the entire 90 minutes."
The return match in England will be on March 17.
“Happy for the victory, of course, but for the performance as well,” Guardiola said. “They started really well in the first 15 minutes, but after these 15 minutes we played really good. But it’s still not over. If there is one team in the world that can overcome this, it’s this club (Real Madrid).”
In Wednesday's other game, Lyon beat Italian champion Juventus 1-0 at home.
Guardiola’s team was the most dangerous team throughout the match but couldn't get past Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois until Jesus' close-range header. The Brazilian forward, a surprise starter over Sterling and Sergio Aguero, jumped behind Ramos to meet a well-placed cross by De Bruyne.
Sterling, back in action after nursing a muscle injury, made a crucial impact after coming off the bench by setting up the penalty that De Bruyne calmly converted past Courtois.
Madrid struggled to get clear chances but took the lead after Rodri gave the ball away near midfield. The blunder allowed Vinícius Júnior to make a run into the area and find Isco free from markers for an easy goal.
Courtois made a few difficult saves in both halves, while Madrid's best chance until Isco's goal was a close-range header by Karim Benzema saved by Ederson before the break.
“We created good chances but we were off-target and Courtois made some great saves,” Guardiola said.
Madrid historically has thrived at the Bernabéu in the Champions League, but it has won only three of its last 10 European matches at the stadium, drawing three and losing other four. It was eliminated by Ajax in last year's round of 16 after a 4-1 home loss. That marked the first time since 2009-10 the Spanish powerhouse failed to reach at least the semifinals.
It was the third straight setback for Madrid, which was coming off a draw and a loss in the Spanish league, results that dropped the team behind Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league.
Man City has filed an appeal against UEFA's ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but if the UEFA punishment stands, City won’t be back in the Champions League until the 2022-23 season.
Guardiola said he is not using the ban to motivate his players this season.
“We cannot control what happens off the pitch, we can only control what happens on the pitch,” he said. “It’s not easy for our club to live (through this), but I’m confident that everything is going to go well. Hopefully the board and the lawyers can convince UEFA that we did the right things, not the wrong things.”