Real Madrid were unable to play their usual game due to Manchester City’s suffocating high press in the first half of Wednesday’s 4-0 Champions League semi-final loss, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said.
After a 1-1 draw in Spain in the first leg, City flew out of the traps at the Etihad Stadium, Pep Guardiola’s side hunting in packs high up the pitch, keeping Real pinned back inside their own box and giving them no room to breathe.
City completed 124 passes in the first 15 minutes with nearly 80% of possession while reigning champions Real were restricted to just 13 passes, UEFA stats showed.
“From the start we expected them to press and not let us play our way out with the ball. They pushed a lot of players up to keep us in our box,” Courtois said.
“Initially we managed it well but we weren’t able to play our game, create chances or cause them danger. That allowed them to be even more comfortable.
“Then in the 20th minute they scored and it became increasingly difficult for us to get into the game.”
Two goals from Bernardo Silva put City in command of the tie but Courtois said things could have been different had Toni Kroos’s rocket from distance found the net instead of hitting the crossbar.
Real came back from seemingly impossible situations against City, Chelsea and Paris St Germain en route to winning the title last season but there was no way back on Wednesday.
City scored twice more after the restart to advance to the final.
“The games haven’t gone our way as they did last year. At halftime you could see that we had the desire to change the game,” Courtois added.
“We started well but we found it hard to create chances, we weren’t able to take advantage of the space and we ended up paying for it.”