Guardiola Explains Haaland’s Quiet Night Out at Santiago Bernabeu

Manchester City returned to the Etihad Stadium with a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu. Vinicius Jr scored for Los Blancos against the run of play, while Kevin de Brunye hit the back of the net for the Citizens.

Prior to kickoff, Erling Haaland was central to all discussions but amidst all the drama in the Spanish capital, he failed to impress. This is the second game in succession that he has shutout, failing to add to his 51-goal tally in the 2022/23 campaign.

Madrid’s plan for halting Haaland’s scoring run

Pep Guardiola had no qualms with his star striker failing to get on the scoreboard. The Catalan manager understood the challenge posed by Real Madrid defenders for Haaland and hinted at a much better outing in the return leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Madrid’s shape was designed in such a way as to deny Haaland any space. The Norwegian received special attention from the central defensive pairing of Antonio Rudiger and David Alaba, with the three midfielders also dropping down to help them. Despite the result, Guardiola was pleased with his efforts in spite of testing conditions.

“The pockets and distances between the central defenders and full-backs were occupied by attacking midfielders, [Luka] Modric, Toni Kroos and [Federico] Valverde. Twin central defender close to Erling, it was not easy for him. He moved well and had his chances.”

“Tight, tight game. The Bernabeu in the semi-final, sometimes we had good moments and sometimes it was difficult with the quality they have on the ball. Final next Wednesday at home with our people. When we were better they score, when they were better we score,” he added.

Ancelotti acknowledges Guardiola’s assessment

Carlo Ancelotti shared similar sentiments about the fixture and praised Rudiger for keeping Haaland silent. He acknowledged the role played by Madrid’s defence in ensuring the Norwegian did not cause havoc in their third.

“Defensively we were very good. Rudiger against Haaland did really well, the midfield covered really well the position in front of the defence, we managed the ball well in the second half.

“We are satisfied. Sometimes the result doesn’t give you credit but the performance was really good, we are happy and we are in a strong condition for the next game,” Ancelotti remarked.

Guardiola pleased with City’s performance

The semi-final first leg will be remembered for world-class strikes from Vinicius and KDB. They came against the run of play, a fact acknowledged by Guardiola.

The Catalan did not mind the result, hailing Real’s pedigree in the Champions League. He is now planning for the decisive meeting in Manchester and believes City will give a much better showing in front of their own fans.

“We were better when they scored, they were better when we scored. It was a tight game. Real Madrid in the semi-final is always a tough one. We turned up, we had good moments, it’s difficult with the quality they have on and off the ball. 1-1, final next Wednesday with our people.”

“We started really well in the first half, but then they made a lot of passes, they are really, really good at that,” he added. “But after we scored a really good goal from Kevin, we had good moments. They had a few good chances.”

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