Real Madrid took a goalless draw from the Champions League semi-final first leg at Manchester City with Joe Hart in the way.
The first half was tepid at best and while the second wasn’t a classic, it was at least end-to-end and Hart three times prevented Madrid converting headers from corners.
That said, with the expensive attacking talent on the pitch, there should have been more created, even with Cristiano Ronaldo failing a fitness test.
Ronaldo didn’t even make the Madrid bench after his thigh injury but City were able to call on captain Vincent Kompany after his injury-hit season, though David Silva’s game ended before half time with what looked to be a thigh injury, and Karm Benzema went off at half time.
The opening was cagey, as the cliché goes, with Madrid in possession and City snapping into tackles, more than once turning over possession in dangerous areas but not making the most of the promising positions, Jesus Navas a particularly guilty party.
Madrid struggled to find space among the congested midfield, Gareth Bale and Dani Carvajal sending crosses into the penalty area that went unanswered, while Kevin De Bruyne’s round-the-corner pass gave Sergio Aguero a half-chance.
But genuine openings were few and far between, Bale’s shot from range, deflected high into the air and into Hart’s arms, the first time either goalkeeper had a save to make, more than 30 minutes into proceedings.
The second half was instantly livelier than the first when Aguero lashed over inside two minutes, then Bale went sprawling in the City box but neither a penalty nor a dive was called.
Sergio Ramos had the game’s best chance to that point when he met Toni Kroos’ corner with a firm header at the near post, but it was straight at Hart. Somewhere in the fray, Zinedine Zidane ripped his trousers, as he did against Wolfsburg.
Chances remained at a premium as the hour mark came and went but the game was at least more stretched, feeling more like a cup final than a semi-final first leg, though the quality was surprisingly low given the calibre of players on show.
Jese’s header onto the crossbar gave Hart a problem, the ball looping over his outstretched hand but thudding against the woodwork from Dani Carvajal’s cross, then Bale beat Hart and the far post when he cut inside and curled a shot towards goal.
Hart was called into action via Casemiro’s header, against at the near post from a corner, the England international saving with his feet at close quarters, and even closer quarters – point blank, in fact – from Pepe moments later, again from a corner.
Raheem Sterling, surging into space from Aguero’s pass, could have had a late chance for City but Pepe, imperious against Kun and co, got in the way, as the game ended goalless – Navas saving late from De Bryune – and delicately poised for next week at Santiago Bernabeu.
Manchester City 0-0 Real Madrid
Manchester City: Hart; Sagna, Kompany, Otamendi, Clichy; Fernando, Fernandinho; Navas (Sterling 77), De Bruyne, Silva (Iheanacho 40); Aguero
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos (Isco 90), Modric; Bale, Benzema (Jese 46), Lucas Vazquez
Referee: Cakir [TUR]