Ronaldo's late strike ends City's raid on Madrid


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The Independent Online

When Jose Mourinho slides on his knees on the turf in celebration at winning a game, and the season is still only in September, it is fair to say that we have witnessed the kind of match that any in the next eight months will struggle to better.

It had the excitement of a semi-final, not the usual humdrum of an opening group stage fixture and that was because for sheer bloody drama it was unparalleled for this stage of the Champions League. Embattled, under siege, and denied the ball for long periods, Manchester City ended up taking the lead on two occasions and then lost it in the last minute of normal time to a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Who else? His shot dipped under the hand of Joe Hart, outstanding for so much of the match, with the clock on 90 minutes and City hanging on for a draw. The goalkeeper left the pitch shaking his head in disbelief .

But this is what happens against great teams. They find a way to beat you.

Through Edin Dzeko, and then a goal by Aleksandar Kolarov, City twice gained an improbable lead. In terms of sheer defensive stubbornness they merited a draw but in the end they got nothing. Marcelo, substitute Karim Benzema and then Ronaldo scored the goals, the third of which was Madrid's 30th attempt on goal, in comparison to the eight mustered by their opponents.

At times in the first half it felt like City must surely buckle under the sustained pressure and possession. That they survived to half-time with the score at 0-0 was a testament to Hart's performance. Mourinho upped the pressure when he brought on Mesut Ozil for Michael Essien but City changed the path of the game with a superb counter-attacking goal from Dzeko, who had come on for David Silva minutes earlier.

The equaliser came from the left wing, Marcelo stepping inside on his right foot this time and his shot flicked off Javi Garcia and past Hart.

The second goal for the away team came improbably from a free-kick, given for a foul on Zabaleta by Benzema which Kolarov curled in.

Benzema scored the equaliser, turning away from Matija Nastasic and just slipping his shot out of Hart's reach.