MANCHESTER, England — Manchester City dismantled Real Madrid 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium to book their place in the Champions League final and remain on course for the treble. The reigning European champions were blown away thanks to two first half goals from Bernardo Silva, an Eder Militao own goal after half-time and a late fourth from substitute Julian Alvarez.
City will play Inter Milan in the final in Istanbul next month, which could end up being the last leg of the treble if they can also lift the Premier League title and the FA Cup. Pep Guardiola’s team are now just three wins away from matching a feat only achieved once before in English football, by Manchester United in 1999.
1. Man City march towards the treble
As much as Chelsea, Brighton, Brentford, Manchester United and Inter Milan will have a say in how many trophies City win this season, this was their toughest test of the treble run-in and Real Madrid, “Kings of the Champions League,” were swatted away by a team playing with so much swagger that they look destined to win it all.
There was the occasional scare when Toni Kroos hit the crossbar and Ederson was needed to make a fingertip save from David Alaba‘s free-kick but for most of the night City dominated the 14-times winners of this competition. At half-time, Guardiola’s team were 2-0 up after enjoying nearly 80 percent possession and in the first 20 minutes, Real Madrid couldn’t even muster a touch of the ball in the attacking third of the pitch. In the same spell, City had 107.
With Inter Milan waiting in Istanbul on June 10, this was billed as the final before the final and City spent most of the night in cruise control. They are three wins away from the treble and, in this form, they will never get a better chance of writing themselves into the history books.
2. Silva a crucial cog in Guardiola’s winning machine
This is City a team full of superstars but Silva’s importance to it cannot be underestimated. In Guardiola’s eternal search for complete control of a football match, the Portugal midfielder helps him get close — keeping the ball when City have it and chasing it down when they don’t. Two first half goals were the highlight of his performance against Real Madrid but his entire shift oozed class and intelligence.
His movement for City’s opener was so good that he had drifted into a space in the penalty area big enough that when Kevin De Bruyne looked up to slide through the pass, it was probably one of the easiest assists he’s ever had. The finish was devastatingly calm — just like his second when he could have easily headed the ball against Alaba on the line but instead guided into the corner.
This will probably always be a season remembered for Erling Haaland’s goals but the City fans who have turned up at the Etihad week in, week out will know just how big a role players like Silva have had. He is only the third player to score two or more goals in a Champions League semifinal tie against Real Madrid after Lionel Messi in 2011 and Robert Lewandowski in 2013. This was his night.
3. Real Madrid’s crown slips on a miserable night in Manchester
Ancelotti will feel that the tie wasn’t truly over until City’s third goal after 76 minutes but the writing was on the wall long before then. Few teams have been able to suffocate Real Madrid in the Champions League but City’s first half was so impressive that when Madrid’s players ran out for the start of the second half, a few of them looked like they already knew the game was up.
There was a moment in the first half when Rodrygo threaded a ball down the left for Vinicius Junior to chase. The Etihad Stadium held its breath as one of Madrid’s main attacking threats sprinted towards the penalty area but before he could even get a toe to the ball, Kyle Walker had eaten up the ground in front of him and tidied up any danger with minimal fuss. Everywhere you looked, City players won.
Karim Benzema barely got a sight of goal and Luka Modric was so overwhelmed in midfield that he was substituted after just an hour. Real Madrid have had some thrilling nights in the Champions League and it’s likely to provide more in the future, but this was a chastening experience in a tournament that they like to think of as their own.
Best and worst performers
Best: Bernardo Silva, MF, Man City
Guardiola’s man for the big occasions, his two goals had City 2-0 up at half-time.
Best: Kyle Walker, DF, Man City
Pre-match build up was all about his duel with Vinicius Junior and he was the clear winner on the night.
Best: Thibaut Courtois, GK, Real Madrid
The goalkeeper made two unbelievable saves from Haaland headers in the first half with the second particularly impressive.
Worst: Dani Carvajal, DF, Real Madrid
Twisted inside out by Jack Grealish and in the end resorted to kicking him before coming off early.
Worst: Luka Modric, MF, Real Madrid
Struggled to get on the ball as City swarmed all over Madrid in the first half and was substituted after an hour.
Worst: Eduardo Camavinga, DF, Real Madrid
Playing out of position at left-back, he couldn’t cope with Silva’s movement.
Highlights and notable moments
After utterly dominating Real Madrid in the opening stages of the match, Silva scored the first for City with a fantastic strike.
ADVANTAGE CITY. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/79nYaSrGLM
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 17, 2023
Silva then doubled for City with a calm and cool headed dink.
“THEY HAVE CLEAR DAYLIGHT…”
BERNARDO SILVA DOUBLES MANCHESTER CITY’S LEAD! 💫 pic.twitter.com/8BZ2uCz0NR
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 17, 2023
Right from the outset, City set the tone and managed complete control of the game.
Real Madrid finished the first half with 10 touches in the attacking third.
Man City had 196 😳 pic.twitter.com/eFQfuPfN7T
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 17, 2023
After the match: What the managers and players said
Quotes to come…
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
Today will be Carlo Ancelotti’s 191st game as a head coach in the UEFA Champions League, to pass Sir Alex Ferguson (190) for most in UCL history
2nd career UCL brace for Bernardo Silva in UCL (also Feb. 15, 2022 )
Bernardo Silva’s last nine UCL goals have been scored in the KO Stage
Kevin De Bruyne: 25 assists in all competitions this season. No other player from Europe’s top 5 leagues has more than 19 (Messi, Vinicius)
Man City’s 196 attacking third touches are the most that Real Madrid has allowed in the first half of a LaLiga or UCL game since at least 2010-11
Pep Guardiola (MNC): advances to 4th European Cup Final, T-2nd most all time after Carlo Ancelotti
This would be tied for Real Madrid’s largest margin of defeat in Real Madrid’s Champions League history (4-0 loss to Liverpool in 2008-09 Round of 16)
Real Madrid: Los Blancos will end the season having won the Copa del Rey title with Barcelona clinching LaLiga last weekend, and they return to league action on Sunday when they travel to Valencia (watch live on ESPN+ at 12:30 p.m. ET).
Manchester City: As City chase the treble, it’s back to Premier League action as they host a struggling Chelsea side on Sunday. Then, Pep Guardiola’s side travel to Brighton on May 24.