Manchester City finally produced a Champions League performance worthy of their status as one of European football’s elite clubs by beating Real Madrid 2-1 away in Wednesday’s last-16 first leg after pulling off a stunning late fightback.
Kevin De Bruyne kept his cool to beat Belgium team mate Thibaut Courtois from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute to give City the lead after Gabriel Jesus had headed home a cross from De Bruyne to pull the visitors level in the 78th minute.
Isco had given Real the lead on the hour mark following a sweeping counterattack but the 13-times European champions’ night soon unravelled, culminating in captain Sergio Ramos being sent off for hauling down Jesus in a bid to prevent a third City goal.
He will be suspended for the second leg at the Etihad Stadium on March 17 while City’s influential defender Aymeric Laporte was forced off injured in the first half, another setback in a season marked by fitness troubles.
City went into the match with a two-year ban from European competition hanging around their necks for defying UEFA’s rules on financial fair play although the club submitted an appeal against the sanction earlier this week.
Real’s fans felt they were on the familiar path to victory in their favourite competition and began to sing ‘We are the Kings of Europe’, but it was City, whose only European trophy came in the 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup, who had the last laugh.