Real Madrid and Manchester City—two teams that kind of suck in similar ways, and are lucky to even be here thanks to their fortunate draws leading up to this point—met in the Champions League semifinal today. It should’ve been one of the best matches of the year, pitting two greats of Europe in a clash for the right to challenge for the sport’s premier prize. It sucked.
Real and City are, in the best of times, a pair of fairly broken teams that feature an array of attacking stars capable of creating and consummating beautiful scoring chances every game. They are also so ill-formed and poorly instructed structurally that they’re just as likely to give up a similar number of chances on the other end. Presumably, this should’ve led to a wide-open game with tons of pretty passes and dribbles and shots in both directions. Didn’t turn out that way.
Instead, the two clubs put on an especially boring and risk-averse display, with both teams doing a sad imitation of defensive and counterattacking soccer that really just looked like guys jogging around aimlessly, not doing much by way of attacking or defending. Manchester City just kind of passed the ball back and forth when they had possession, trying to see if Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva could single-handedly set up Sergio Agüero to take a pop on goal, which unsurprisingly didn’t work. When Real got the ball, they tried to move it up to their attacking players quickly, only they couldn’t string together two passes if their lives depended on it. It wasn’t until really late that the teams even approached coming out of their shells. Even those late moments of ersatz entertainment came primarily from drab set pieces. What the game really needed was Cristiano Ronaldo, who was a late injury scratch and wasn’t even on the bench; he would’ve either been able to conjure something resembling world-class soccer, or else would’ve been so visibly frustrated by the morass surrounding him that at least watching him scowl at his teammates would’ve made for good viewing.
There was a lot of giving the ball away. There was a lot of running around, especially by Fernando and Fernandinho and Casemiro. None of it did anything. None of it was fun to watch. Can both of these teams get eliminated?
Please save us tomorrow, Atlético and Bayern.