Real Madrid confirmed their spot in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League final in Milan opposite Atletico Madrid, after 1-0 win over Manchester City in the Santiago Bernabeu. Gareth Bale’s strike in the 20th minute was credited as Fernando’s own goal, which was the difference over two legs.
The big news ahead of the game was that Zinedine Zidane named Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco in the starting lineup, with Yaya Toure also starting for Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City.
Real Madrid XI: Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Modri, Kroos, Isco, Bale, Jesé, Ronaldo
Manchester City XI: Hart, Sagna, Kompany, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernando, Fernandinho, Touré, Navas, De Bruyne, Agüero
The two teams exited to an eye-catching mural in the Santiago Bernabeu, to decide who would face Atletico Madrid in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League final. However, the visitors were delivered a hammer blow to their chances early on, with Vincent Kompany hobbling off after the muscles in his right knee gave way, to be replaced by the much-maligned Elaquim Mangala in the 10th minute.
Real Madrid began to dominate with Ronaldo going close with a header from Carvajal’s cross minutes later. However, the tie was lit up by an ingenious ‘goal’ from Gareth Bale in the 20th minute, as the Welshman ran onto Carvajal’s measured through ball on the right and lashed a shot-cum-cross from a narrow angle that took a deflection off Fernando and cannoned off the woodwork in the top corner and into the net.
The goal was eventually credited as a Fernando own goal, and the City midfielder nearly made amends immediately after, heading over from a corner. Real Madrid began to dominate soon after, and the Bernabeu faithful cheered loudly when the ball was in the back of the net in the 36th minute, but Pepe’s strike from Kroos’ set-piece was ruled out for offside.
The visitors finally had a great chance to equalise as the half came to an end, with Kevin de Bruyne collecting a pass from a counter and spreading the ball out to Fernandinho on the left. The Brazilian cut inside and attempted to catch out Keylor Navas at his near post with a powerful low drive and succeeded, but the post came to Real Madrid’s rescue, thus keeping the hosts lead intact going into the break.
Despite Real Madrid having the lead, the tie was delicately poised, as a goal from Manchester City would be enough to put them through. With that scenario in mind, Real Madrid began the second half like a house on fire, attempting to make the game safe, with Ronaldo’s underhit volley from Bale’s chipped ball forward threatening the visitors in the 48th minute.
Luka Modric ought to have made the game safe in the 52nd minute, after a beautiful chip from Isco sent the Croatian clear, but Hart charged out to deny Modric’s shot from close range. The City goalkeeper had to be at his best to deny Ronaldo from a header and a low drive as the second half progressed, keeping the Sky Blues in the game on the hour mark.
Pellegrini responded by hauling off Yaya Toure for Raheem Sterling, but Madrid continued to dominate, with Gareth Bale nearly scoring from a corner in the 63rd minute, as the Welshman’s glancing header looped off his head and crashed off the crossbar, with Pepe nearly scoring at the far post from the rebound.
Both managers rang in the changes as the half neared its end, with City growing into the game after the substitutions disrupted Real Madrid's attacking rhythm. Kevin de Bruyne went close from a free-kick from a narrow angle, hitting the side netting. However, Aguero nearly caused Madrid fans some heart palpitations with a swerving, dipping shot that narrowly cleared the top corner in the 89th minute.
However, Los Blancos held out for the victory, despite James spurning a late chance, with the final whistle sparking off celebrations and confirming Real Madrid to face rivals Atletico Madrid in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League final in Milan.