Haaland kryptonite justifies Keane jibe with Real Madrid, Man City set for era-defining rivalry

Lewis Oldham
Man City vs Real Madrid
Erling Haaland and Antonio Rudiger.

Antonio Rudiger did a job on Erling Haaland *again* to justify Roy Keane’s dig as Manchester City and Real Madrid tease the next big rivalry in European football.


“It was something, as you English people call it, a ‘thrashing’. We are looking forward to this game… There is a bit [of motivation], we want revenge.”

“Revenge” was the word reverberating around Madrid in the days leading up to their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Manchester City; Antonio Rudiger admitted they “wanted” that from this tie.

Real Madrid – who have won the Champions League five times since 2014 – were humbled in last season’s competition against superior opposition in Man City.

City’s past failures in the Champions League were a dark cloud hanging over Pep Guardiola’s reign but they finally overcame their mental barrier to win the competition last season.

A 5-1 win on aggregate in the semi-finals against Real Madrid sent them on their way to make history after the same opponents produced a remarkable late comeback having previously looked dead and buried to consign Man City to *even more* Champions League heartache the year prior.

Real Madrid are rarely “thrashed” in this competition so the manner of last season’s exit would have stung for a good while.

With Madrid and City among the favourites to win this year’s Champions League, Carlo Ancelotti’s side would have anticipated facing the Premier League champions at some point, but they would have expected this eagerly-awaited clash to come later than the quarter-final stage.

Yet a tantalising draw gifted us a final-worthy tie in the last eight.

Almost always playing the role of superior, Real Madrid have been handed an ego check by Man City and their pursuit of “revenge” – even with Santiago Bernabeu’s roof closed to boost the atmosphere – got off to a nightmare start.

In just two minutes, Aurelien Tchouameni had been ruled out of the second leg following a rash challenge on Jack Grealish and the subsequent free-kick was scored by Bernardo Silva.

The Portugal international had been expected to go for a cross but his shot caught out Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, who definitely should have done better having got a palm onto the effort.

Los Blancos needed a response and thankfully for them, the next 11 minutes went in their favour.

Firstly, the hosts netted a fortunate equaliser as Eduardo Camavinga’s deflected shot from distance wrong-footed Stefan Ortega and found the net.

Shortly after, a swift Real Madrid breakaway orchestrated by a sublime through ball by Vinicius Junior allowed Rodrygo in behind Man City’s backline. The reported Liverpool target – with the help of a slight deflection off Manuel Akanji – squeezed the ball past Ortega to make it 2-1.

Real Madrid vs Man City
Rodrygo celebrates scoring for Real Madrid.

For the first two-thirds of the tie, Real Madrid appeared to have got their game plan spot on. They allowed Man City to retain possession without pressing frantically but they snapped into challenges when getting even the slightest whiff of an opening while using the pace of Rodrygo and Vinicius to exploit the visitors in attacking areas.

Further back, ex-Chelsea star Rudiger – presumably using the same pinching tactic that worked so well in last season’s first leg – won his battle with Erling Haaland, who had a very quiet evening while marked off the park by an inspired opponent.

Roy Keane’s claim that Haaland’s general play is at “League Two” level was obviously a tad over the top, but the Man Utd icon is right to call out the Man City man, who – despite arguably being the best goalscorer in the world – has a lot of improvements to make if he’s to become a complete striker like Harry Kane.

It was all going to plan from Real Madrid’s perspective as Man City probed to no avail, but two moments of brilliance turned the game on its head.

Phil Foden continued his sensational season by scoring – in what is fast becoming trademark fashion – via a pure and unstoppable left-footed strike which struck the top corner from 25 yards out.

Just five minutes later, a strike of similar quality came via an unexpected source as summer signing Josko Gvardiol cut in from the left flank and his fierce right-footed shot flew into the far corner of the net past Lunin.

Having looked set to edge out their opponents as narrowly the better side over the 90 minutes, Man City were dealt a blow as Real Madrid netted an equaliser against the run of play.

This Real Madrid team are not quite on Man City’s level, but it is still a side littered with quality and Federico Valverde put forward his case for scoring the goal of the game as his perfectly-timed volley following a Vinicius cross beat a static Ortega and was placed superbly in the bottom corner to make this extraordinary game level once again.

And that was how it finished so this tie is finely poised ahead of what should *hopefully* be another thriller at the Etihad next week.

Tonight’s match – plus their meetings in previous years – should prove to only be an appetiser for the next great Champions League rivalry.

Man City have come a long way since the wider world – including former player Robinho – didn’t know “there was another Manchester club” and a potential expulsion is the only thing that could prevent them from sticking around at the top of European football for the next decade.

While Real Madrid – with Vinicius, Rodrygo, Valverde, Jude Bellingham and then Kylian Mbappe still to come – will soon be in a position to seriously challenge Man City for the tag of being the best team in the world; they could even topple Pep Guardiola’s great team completely when the Spaniard calls time on his reign at the Etihad.