Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus seized on defensive mistakes to lead Manchester City to a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in the Champions League on Friday, reaching the quarterfinals with a 4-2 aggregate victory.
After knocking out the record 13-time European champion, City’s mission to win the continent’s elite competition for the first time will continue against Lyon on Aug. 15 as part of UEFA´s unique, pandemic-enforced last eight tournament in Lisbon.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg in February – before the coronavirus shut down sports – Sterling extended the advantage in the ninth minute at an empty Etihad Stadium.
With Sergio Ramos banned after being sent off in the Madrid leg, Raphael Varane was without his usual central defensive partner. And the Frenchman was caught out in possession by Gabriel Jesus, who squared for Sterling to tap past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Real began to make its presence felt and equalized through Karim Benzema, who headed in powerfully from Rodrygo’s cross in the 28th minute.
City went close to a second before the break after a poor clearance from Courtois went straight to Kevin De Bruyne, but Phil Foden – playing as a false nine with Sergio Aguero injured – struck wide.
But another blunder by Varane in the 68th minute was again capitalized on by Gabriel Jesus.
Varane failed to cut out a long ball forward and then made an ineffective attempt to head back to Courtois. Gabriel Jesus closed in quickly and dinked the ball over Courtois.
There was no way back for the newly crowned Spanish champions, who were eliminated from a Champions League knockout round for the first time under Zinedine Zidane. He led Madrid to three consecutive titles from 2016 to 2018, resigned after delivering the 13th title but returned as coach in March 2019.
In his fourth season in charge of City, Pep Guardiola remains in contention to win the Champions League for the first time since his 2011 success with Barcelona.
The lack of spectators meant the match was not preceded by the usual booing of the Champions League anthem by supporters angered by UEFA pursuing Financial Fair Play cases against the Abu Dhabi-owned club.
Since the first leg, though, City overturned a two-season ban from European competitions after being cleared in an appeal case over the source of funding from jersey and stadium sponsor Etihad to comply with break-even rules.
But City’s obstruction in the case was strongly condemned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport which led to the club being fined 10 million euros, which was two-thirds less than the original UEFA punishment.
Now City’s season can still end with the club UEFA wanted to ban picking up its biggest club prize.