Pep Guardiola praised Erling Haaland for his efforts against Real Madrid but believes the way they were set up stifled his play.
Manchester City left the Bernabeu with a crucial 1-1 draw in the semi-final first leg with Kevin De Bruyne’s masterful strike cancelling out Vinicius Jr’s earlier effort.
But goalscoring hero Haaland could not get a foothold in the match and was well defended against by Antonio Rudiger, who stuck to the 22-year-old like a moth to a flame.
In fact, the 51-goal star was restricted to just 21 touches throughout the evening on Tuesday night. That was the least out of every player that started the contest at the Bernabeu, including both goalkeepers.
City keeper Ederson even made more passes than Haaland, registering 19 to the Norwegian’s 13.
Speaking after the match, Guardiola explained why his main man was marked out of the match, insisting that Real Madrid’s defensive plan worked a treat.
The ex-Barcelona manager said: “The pockets and distances between the central defender and full-backs was occupied.
“It was not easy for Erling. He moved well and had his chances.”
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And Real boss Carlo Ancelotti spoke of his delight that his tactics worked against Haaland, who has scored 12 times in the Champions League this season.
The Italian remarked: “Defensively we were good. Rudiger against Haaland did well and the midfield had control.
“The performance was good and we are happy. We have strong motivation for the next game.”
City will be thanking De Bruyne for getting themselves back in the contest in a relatively cagey affair despite the sheer quality on show at the Bernabeu.
It was his powerful strike that gave Thibaut Courtois no chance as he hammered one in from outside the area after being laid off by Ilkay Gundogan.
And speaking after the match, City teammate Rodri admitted that they were indebted to De Bruyne.
The Spaniard said: “He [Kevin de Bruyne] is a massive player for us. Always he has been great and he helped us in the moment we most needed it.
“We were suffering a bit because they were keeping the ball and with the goal he gave us the confidence to keep pushing. It is a good result for us.
“We knew no matter what happened here it would not be the end. At home, we will need the people to support us.”
That goal means the Premier League leaders have a slight advantage when they return to the Etihad, playing in front of their own fans.
But no one can rule out Real Madrid, a club that has won the Champions League 14 times – more than anyone else – and has a collective 29 Champions League medals in the dressing room.
Vinicius Jr proved that in the first-half when his rocket saw Rio Ferdinand lose the plot and break the deadlock.
There were other flashpoints including Ancelotti uncharacteristically losing his cool, Jack Grealish getting thrown into an advertising board and Toni Kroos escaping a red card.
All signs point towards a true classic at the Etihad next Wednesday where the winner will face either Inter or AC Milan in the final.