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Man City and Real Madrid duel in the Champions League semifinals, which has it all

Both clubs' tendencies were fully on display, leading to a seven-goal thriller and a number of open potential results in the second leg. (Author: Gardener)

Man City andThe greatest gift Real Madrid have is a deep belief in their own ability to win. Time and time again over the last ten years, Madrid have been under pressure in the Champions League simply because one of their brilliant players should do something brilliant when it was needed. Madrid were second best in three quarters in both the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain and in the quarterfinals against Chelsea and still prevailed. And that it lost just 4-3 to Manchester City, who at times threatened to declassify it, said a lot for its remarkable stickability. For a number of years there has been a feeling that La Liga teams can be physically dominated by Premier League teams. It happened to Madrid in the semi-finals two seasons ago when City pushed it to the point of desperation and won in much more comfortable fashion than the 2-1 result in each leg would suggest. Again, pressing was the cornerstone of City's performance, which ultimately led to the highest-scoring semi-final in Champions League history. Madrid just couldn't get out for a long time, while every rally threatened to become an opportunity for the hosts. This is an aging Madrid, a charge usually leveled at midfield, but here it was the defense that looked aging as Dani Carvajal struggled against Phil Foden, while David Alaba struggled and was substituted at half-time. City were ahead after just 94 seconds when Riyad Mahrez rushed in from the right as Madrid oddly broke away and Kevin De Bruyne delivered a perfect cross to pass Thibaut Courtois. Nine minutes later, City had a second, Foden creating space against Carvajal and then putting it back from De Bruyne to cross to Gabriel Jesus, who turned and slotted in. At this point, City felt like they could score with almost any attack. Mahrez and Foden both missed good chances and then, out of nowhere, Karim Benzema pulled one back, his skillful volley converting a Ferland Mendy cross. Pep Guardiola had reacted with anger to Mahrez's miss, mostly because he went on target when he could have made it to Foden, who would have had an open goal, but that response showed he knew the game wasn't was won 2-0. no matter how dominant City seemed. This is a Madrid that keeps defying logic. And Guardiola may reflect on his teams' habit of being in control in big games only to lose it by conceding an easy goal. When Foden then headed in a Fernandinho cross, as a makeshift right-back for injured and initially makeshift full-back John Stones (João Cancelo was suspended, Kyle Walker injured), the goal-line seemed to reflect the game more accurately. Where Madrid deserved credit was that they were so often able to wreak havoc on the game, turning the game into a competition that flowed from end to end. When it took on a more natural shape, City looked a lot better. Bernardo Silva capitalized on a smart advantage to put the lead at 4-2 with a left-footed laser in the top left corner, but then Benzema offered an even bolder finish with a Panenka penalty after Aymeric Laporte was penalized for a hand ball, perhaps hard as the ball bounced off his head. Benzema was already the oldest Madrid player since Ferenc Puskás to score 40 goals this season. His ice-cold execution was all the more impressive after missing two penalties in seven minutes against Osasuna last week. It was almost completely dominant for the first 20 minutes. Not for the first time in a big game of Guardiola's career, it felt like an opportunity had been missed; both league games against Liverpool this season were the same. Casemiro should return for the second leg next week, which could bring some solidity back to Madrid's midfield, but given Chelsea's dominance at the Bernabeu in the last round, there's no reason City shouldn't dominate the game again, especially with Walker and Cancel to return. Trouble is, given Madrid's penchant for finding a way and City's tendency to leave goals on the table, that may not be enough. "In my little experience, to win this competition you have to overcome situations like those in football," Guardiola said in his post-game remarks. So you have to do two games really well. We did really well on the first one, you have to do that on the second. It's a good test to show our personality as a team and we will go there to win the game."

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Foden shines on the big stage as defiant Real Madrid refuse to admit defeat

Manchester City could have grabbed the visitors in the first hour but Karim Benzema's Panenka is preparing the return to the Bernabéu (Author: Gardener)

Real MadridAfter fifteen minutes at the Etihad Stadium, Phil Foden did something wonderful on a night when that entire lighted stage seemed to ripple and tremble. In search of a high, lost, soaring pass destined for the stands, Foden sped off, pounding his feet on the turf, calibrating angles and arcs, and pulling that soaring pass out of the sky like a man caught with a stick conjuring down the moon . His first touch muffled it, his second sent it gushing right through the sea of ​​lost souls formerly known as the Real Madrid Defence. A mess of flailing limbs almost bundled a third city goal into their own net. At this point that tie looked done, Real Madrid looked done, impaled, Foden right in the middle of his own brilliant, crucial little spot of light. Elite football, we are told, is a matter of fine detail. Elite football is a suffocation. A little over an hour later, Karim Benzema paused on the same side of the pitch, went to the penalty spot and sent the ball up the soft Manchester air again, completing another gentle arc over Ederson's prone form. Benzema's second goal had pulled the score – let's get this right – back to 4-3. And on the padded seats in front of the press box, the Madrid contingent jumped up and roared and punched the air, less celebrating than laughing, peacocking, reddened with some sort of acknowledgment. Yes, we are Real Madrid. City will be happy but also insanely frustrated to lead this game at the Bernabéu next week by an odd goal from seven. Maybe they put that tie away during opening hours. Instead, the team craving control went in Madrid's place. And in the end, this was a tale of moments - so, so many moments - divided between Foden's early brilliance; and the craft of Benzema, the will of these royal meringues. There is no reasonable way to read a game like this or predict what might come in the second leg. Foden probably deserved to be picked for City if only because he couldn't have played better on a stage like this. This was an epiphany on a night where the Etihad had felt a little underwhelmed at kick-off, as if the size of that game had crept onto the pitch. City was smooth and crisp early on. After two minutes, Riyad Mahrez took a pass with that special Mahrez swizzle touch, a snap of the bottom of his boot, and just spun through Madrid's entire left side. Mahrez looked up and rolled into a training ground pass for Kevin De Bruyne to head the ball down and into the corner. Foden scored the second goal. That was shockingly bad from Madrid, the defense whizzing aside like the paper saloon doors of a western set. Foden is a footballer who seems to have a fundamental advantage in his relationship with gravity at moments like snooping around Fede Valverde, a greater lock-in in those sensitive feet. He fed De Bruyne, whose low cross to Gabriel Jesus was turned into a scalpel-like submission when David Alaba fell. And moments later, City opened up that ridiculous Real Madrid imitation once more, De Bruyne, Jesus and Foden running from the halfway line three abreast like a 60m sprint. De Bruyne timed his pass to Foden just right. The touch was good enough, the shot went wide of the far post. After 33 minutes, the team to be wrapped, unwrapped, trimmed and quartered were right back in the game thanks to Benzema, with just enough time and space to take Ferland Mendy's pass and finish like a prince. Real Madrid is a terrible football team. Real Madrid is a brilliant football team. Real Madrid is a brittle wafer-thin thing. Real Madrid is as tough as iron. One of the main benefits of believing in your own divine right to the myth of kings is that this thing is never really over. The second half bought more mania, more uncontrolled surges of energy. Foden scored from Fernandino's cross and then made his way into the corner with a seemingly endless knee slide, a man who seems to yearn for this tournament to drink these nights like a sweet puff of hot air. Vinícius Júnior scored a wonderful, driving second place for Madrid. And Madrid will go into the second leg all the happier, aware that this was a night where, despite all the cuts, in the end City seemed to be playing someone else's game, high up in that exciting white light.

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Real Madrid refuse to die while Man City regret missed chances

As they've proved on numerous occasions in this knockout round, Real Madrid don't have to be at their best to fight their way back into a Champions League game (Author: Gardener)

Real MadridLast season, Manchester City probably had as good a finisher as English football has ever seen on their way to their first Champions League final. A year later, Sergio Aguero watched that semi-final from his man cave, watching wave after wave of attacks from his old team-mates and describing Madrid's defense as 'a sieve'. "Water goes everywhere," he told his Twitch followers. Our esteemed Radio Marca colleagues, seated in the back row of Etihad's press box, watched the first half hour of devastating City failures and Madrid's bewildered defense with a combination of fear and sadness. However, Madrid very rarely melts down completely. Often referred to as the all-seeing, all-powerful, all-knowing emperors of this competition, in their modern form they are actually much more like Rasputin. You have to make sure that there is absolutely no turning back for a team that goes to their grave with a two meter high stepladder. City scored four goals, the earliest after just 94 seconds, three minutes earlier than against Watford at the weekend. It's hard to say which was better or a more complete representation of the exciting style they've perfected over the last six years under Pep Guardiola. They left Etihad with absolutely no doubt that they are better than Madrid at their best. But, as they've proved on numerous occasions in this knockout round, Madrid don't need to be at their best. City didn't want to be left with the sense of regret they experienced after the top-flight clash against Liverpool earlier in that epic month in east Manchester. Guardiola lamented they "left her alive" despite a brilliant performance against Jurgen Klopp's side in a 1-1 draw. This will go down in the record books as a 4-3 win, but it's a result that still gives Madrid any chance of reaching the Paris final, despite the fact that they could have been blown away. There are three reasons why they weren't, and the first, as usual, boils down to a questionable Guardiola play. True to his form, he undermined all expectations, but still by playing John Stones at right-back. The muscular problem he had nursed for a week was better. At least that's what Stone's Guardiola said. Despite being joined at times by Bernardo Silva, he didn't look out of place in that dominant first half hour. But shortly after Karim Benzema's first goal - a goal that came from City's right side - he had to be replaced. City would eventually have to play with a makeshift right-back. Fernandinho, who turns 38 on the day of the second leg next week, would have to spend an hour tagging the Livewire Vinicius. And while City club captain Phil Foden lined up for City's third, that mismatch on City's right was directly responsible for Madrid's second. Vinicius' half dummy, half nutmeg Fernandinho before his miraculous finish. The goal wasn't Fernandinho's or Guardiola's fault, rather the result of a short and severe string of injuries and suspensions at one particular position, but City have chosen to run with a small squad that lacks versatile players this season and that are the consequences. But just as responsible was City's waste in front of goal. As against Liverpool, they kept their rivals alive by the sheer volume of spurned chances. Guardiola was a picture of anger when, with the score 2-0, Riyad Mahrez decided to shoot into the side netting from a tight angle rather than find Foden. You've wondered what Aguero and his Twitch followers might be thinking as those opportunities faded. But perhaps there was nothing more City could do in the face of opposition. Perhaps a one-goal lead is actually as much as you can expect. If you play the 13-time champions in the semi-finals of this competition, Benzema might get the exceptional finish for their first. Vinicius will inevitably hit the entire right side. A composed defender like Ayermic Laporte will handle the ball unnecessarily. City will feel like they left Madrid very much alive.

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Champions League semifinals, first leg – how it came about

Minute report: City flew out of the blocks and were worth his four goals, but they could have had more and Real stayed on their heels with three stunning strikes of their own. Scott Murray watched. (Author: Gardener)

Champions LeagueThis website uses cookies for analytics, personalized content and ads. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience. Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid: Champions League semi-finals first leg - how it happened Minute report: City flew out of the blocks and were worth his four goals but they could have had more and Real opened up with three stunning shots of their own the heels. If we get a game that's half as good as what's being served tonight, we'll do very well. ALSO SEE: Manchester City rush at Real Madrid but Benzema Panenka keeps tie alive Pep speaks to BT Sport We did a lot of good things, but unfortunately we conceded the goals. We played a fantastic game against an incredible team. We're going to Madrid to try and win the game. Leeds are the most important game now.” Pep's verdict is still out, but so is David Hytner's. Also read: Manchester City storm at Real Madrid but Benzema Panenka keeps tie alive Phil Foden speaks to BT Sport: “For the fans it was a great game of football from goals. But we played against a team that has won the Champions League many times. We know they will punish us if we pass the ball in dangerous areas, so we have to work on that for the second leg. But we have to take our chances more.” Bernardo Silva adds: “We were so, so good in the first 20 minutes. Over the 90 minutes it feels like we could have won with a better result. But we couldn't use our two-goal difference that we had three times. But this is the Champions League and it's still a good result for us, a goal ahead of them. It's true we could have scored more goals but that's football.” City lead to the Bernabeu next week and yet Real look happier when the teams leave the pitch. Silva, Laporte and Dias argue with the referee about the penalty throw while Foden looks a little dejected. Benzema allows himself a small smile, half contentment, half relief. He'll be grateful City didn't blow Real in the first 30 minutes. Seven goals, including six peaches, with Vinicius Junior's solo run from the halfway line and Benzema's Panenka being the best record harvest. 90 min +4: Foden's delivery isn't everything. Real clear their lines. 90 min +3: Nacho is booked for a clip about Mahrez. Then Foden wins a corner on the bottom right. One last chance for City to restore the two-goal cushion? 90 min +2: The game restarts. 90 min +1: A pause as a few pitch invaders reveal themselves. 90 min: There are three bonus minutes. 89 min: Having referred Zidane to the topic of Benzema's panenka, it's worth noting that for a millisecond it looked like he had a bit too much of it. But unlike Zizou in the 2006 World Cup final, he didn't hit the crossbar, instead the ball smacked into the net. 88 min: This is Vinicius' last act tonight. 87 mins: Valverde executes a graceful flick to the right to dribble away Benzema. He dances all the way across the front of the City box before feeding Vinicius down the left channel. Vinicius jumps past 12 meters from an acute angle. Benzema gives Ederson the eyes and Panenkas it! A Panenka in a Champions League semi-final, with his team two goals behind. Karim Benzema chips his penalty past Ederson. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images 85 min: Mahrez curls in low from the right. Dias almost pushes it home at the far post. He doesn't get touch so it's a corner. A tempting cross from the right, Dias is only centimeters away from the long stick. 83 min: Jesus is replaced by Sterling. 81 min: The free kick goes up into the penalty area. Laporte rises with Benzema. The ball hits his hand that was at his head. Benzema is waiting to be booed at the stadium. 80 min: Valverde intercepts a loose ball in the middle of the park and sends Benzema down the right flank. Benzema's low cross is swept away by Silva. Camavinga wins a free kick on the right. 79 mins: Modric dribbles down the inside left channel and pulls a shot to the right. 77 min: Ederson, under pressure from Benzema, hysterically speeds for miles from his box to the absolute blooter clear. A spectacular, sober conclusion that is celebrated almost as much as Silva's goal. Another amazing goal! The referee thinks about a free kick but waits with Silva in possession to see what happens. And what unfolds is Silva taking a touch into the box and whipping an unstoppable, rising shot into the top left corner! Bernardo Silva claps a shot into the top corner. 76 min: Mahrez dribbles into the Real box from the right, past a series of tackles. At the corner of the six-yard box, he bumps past Courtois but inches from the left post. 75 min: An assist for the referee. 72 mins: City enjoys some more of this deliciously sterile possession. Real sit back and keep their defensive form as it is. 70 min: Camavinga comes for Rodrygo. I don't remember Pep losing his head like that at Barcelona or Bayern, not even when Mourinho caught Tito Vilanova in the eye.” 69 min: Vinicius flips Dias down the inside left channel with embarrassing ease, then punches Laporte and shoves a ball into the box hoping to combine with Rodrygo. Danger to the city! Two shots later and it's a goal kick. However, it looked like Vinicius handled Laporte's pass, so VAR might have had something to say if Real scored. 68 min: Foden, De Bruyne and Zinchenko combine on the left. The latter pans a flat cross into the penalty area. He swings a leg at the ball and sends it whistling down to the left. 66 mins: Real seem happy enough to take it down a notch too. Both teams are enjoying a small period of sterile possession. 64 min: City slows things down a bit, which is probably a good idea. 62 mins: Modric shakes old hips and slides Benzema free to the left. He does not find Rodrygo in the center with his cross. city ​​clear. Real come back, Benzema twists his neck back for a header but the ball fails to arrive, eyebrowed by Dias out of harm's way. There are more goals in this game. 60 mins: Vinicius and Benzema combine on the left, the latter almost working for a shot. Not quite, but Real now look dangerous every time they attack. 59 min: Vinicius almost shoots down the left touchline again. It looks like he was just pushed to the side of the box by Dias, but the referees keep waving. Real are back... And what a goal that is! A pass down the left touchline. Vinicius turns Fernandinho on the halfway line and leaves him for dust. He shoots all the way to the left corner of the six yard box, opens his body and slides over Ederson and into the bottom right corner! This is an outstanding solo effort and what a game this is! Vinicius Junior strikes back for Real Madrid. Photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images 57 min: Carvajal crosses from the right. Militao puts a weak header into Ederson's arms. There the hearts of the city were in the mouth for a second. 56 min: Mahrez and Silva combine in the bottom right. Silva goes into a packed box. Valverde handles the situation by jumping in the air, turning 180 degrees and dealing with a back-heel volley. Such an evening is now. You have now achieved this goal! Fernandinho rampages down to the right. Jesus pulls Militao to the near post and drops the ball onto Foden, who heads in from six yards down the right! Phil Foden leads number three home. 54 mins: Pep Guardiola cautioned for scolding the referee, outraged by a midfield garden diversity challenge. 48 min: The crowd is roaring now! Mahrez pinches the ball from Militao and tears down the right inner channel. He's clearly in goal! He opens his body and creams a shot past Courtois... and off the left post! The rebound falls on Foden, who lifts his left leg to send an initial reaction shot towards goal. Carvajal blocks on the line and Rodri's attempt from the edge of the box is deflected to a corner. Riyad Mahrez's shot hits the post. Photo: Jan Kruger/UEFA/Getty Images 52 min: City begin to reestablish their dominance. Like the first half again but without the reward of an early goal. City are in dreamland! Foden scurries down the left touchline and cuts back for De Bruyne, who rolls into the mixer. Kroos lashes out on a clearance and doesn't really hit, which confuses Alaba on the edge of his six-yard box. Alaba is totally at sea, and the ball breaks to Jesus, who spins and can't miss. Gabriel Jesus makes two for City. 50 mins: Nothing comes out of the corner but City rush back in front almost immediately, De Bruyne curling in deep from the right. Foden fails to hit the cross at the far post and Carvajal escapes for a goal kick. 47 min: Real have some possession in the second half. Real gets the ball rolling for the second half. Speaking of the injury, that's exactly what Stones did, indicating to his manager he couldn't continue and forcing Pep into action. Real created next to nothing that night, but now look! Modric grinds into a tackle with Mahrez and sends Mendy out the left inside channel. Benzema beats Zinchenko on the edge of the box and deflects a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal. And so quickly Real is back! Karim Benzema grabs one for Real Madrid. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters Half-time entertainment... ahead of tomorrow night's other semi-final first leg. See also: Henderson, Emery and Night in a Bar Introducing Klopp's New Liverpool. Mahrez has just enough time to send a cross into the mixer from the right, causing momentary panic among the Madrid defenders and the whistle blows. City could have been out of sight but Real limited the damage. Time for Carlo Ancelotti to get to work while Pep Guardiola prepares to give Mahrez the blow-dry treatment. 38 min: I mean... Vinicius had received quite a bit of joy down the left. But surely not tactically? 45 mins: De Bruyne blows an unusually mindless shot straight into the wall. There will be an extra minute. 44 min: A brilliant Zinchenko interception, with Valverde so close to sending Rodrygo to the right. City goes straight at the other end and Kroos puts Jesus upside down near the left corner of the box. Another free kick in a dangerous position. 43 min: Jesus turns Militao elegantly on the sideline to the left of the Real goal. His cross is deflected to the corner. Militao makes up for selling the dummy by powerfully heading away Foden's corner. but it's Mahrez who takes it and looks for a curler in the top left corner. Courtois is behind the whole time and hits clear with confidence. 40 min: Vinicius brings Silva to the right of the real box. 36 min: City is forced to make an early change. Stones, who passed a fitness test late, will be replaced by Fernandinho. 35 min: Suddenly everything is real! Rodrygo storms into the City box from the right and whips a fierce shot at goal. Ederson parried, nothing will come of the resulting corner. 26 min: It's going to be such a weird game. Now De Bruyne sends Mahrez free to the bottom right. He has Foden free in the middle. A pass rolled over and it was 3-0. But he instead attacks in the top right and whips into the side netting. Penny is said to be a fly on the wall of the City dressing room at halftime. 31 min: Zinchenko has a cross from 25 meters. His flat diagonal shot always swings past the right post. 30 mins: Benzema wins a corner on the left, then rolls in from the set piece for Alaba, who flicks a header just wide of the right post. Ederson wasn't entirely sure he'd achieve that if it had been on target. 29 min: It should be three points. 29 min: It should be three points. De Bruyne, absolute boss of this game, clearly leaves Foden behind on the left. Foden's first touch is not ideal and puts him a little too far to the left. Instead of firing home, he pulls a shot over the goal and wide right. 28 min: Now Ederson is almost Sadio Mané-d from Benzema on his goal line! 25 min: Slapstick shenanigans in the City Box. Ederson passes out to Dias, who immediately lets Benzema undress him. The ball goes to Vinicius, on the edge of the six-yard box. Dias comes back and knocks the ball over Ederson. It dribbles into the open goal and is deflected off the foot of the right post. Then the flag goes offside, which explains why Benzema didn't bother running the rebound home. 15 mins: Foden brings down Zinchenko's sharp left cross pass with an exquisite touch. From the sideline, he rolls a tempting ball through the six-yard box. Courtois, visibly shaken, was supposed to claim but let him roll over the goal with a confused head. Real are very lucky that Jesus was back on their heels and then the offside flag was raised. Phil Foden brings down a long ball. Photo: Dave Thompson/AP 23 min: Vinicius and Benzema one-two down the left. They almost find a way through the city's back line, but Dias brilliantly sees the danger to intercept and clear them. "As a City fan, I'd be concerned as Pep now has nearly three hours of play to think about some new, self-destructive adjustments to the Finals line-up," joked Zach Neeley. 21 min: Nothing comes out of the corner, but that's amazing. City have been excellent from the start but Real have been a nervous mess so far. 20 mins: More amateur nonsense as Carvajal flies out a simple back pass for a corner. Real is here to take away. 18 min: Kroos plays the corner briefly and, together with Carvajal, manages to ball in an awkward style. Real Madrid's noggins are spinning and swimming right now. If they're not careful, City could soon lose sight of this. 17 min: Militao and Alaba didn't look too smart there either. Real really need their attack to get out of this mess as the defense doesn't look too smart. Benzema tries to get something going and feeds Vinicius Junior into the city box on the left. Vinicius was supposed to return it with a pull back, but he goes for the spectacular curler instead. Corner. What a start for City! After stroking it around for a while, Mahrez snakes in from the right, cutting back and curling into De Bruyne, who runs from deep to split Real's defense and hit the cross, the ball with a brave shot steers into the lower left corner, controlled header from a short distance. Kevin De Bruyne opens the scoring. Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian 13 min: Ancelotti is now so stunned he's stopped chewing altogether. He's got a thousand yard view of it. 3. Min: That came after one minute and 34 seconds. Such a simple but beautiful goal. Phil Foden chases down Kevin De Bruyne to celebrate his fine header goal. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images 10 min: Ederson's gift from a distance aside, Real have achieved nothing. 9 min: This goal, however. Mahrez gently stroked the cross and De Bruyne, who had timed his run perfectly, could hardly miss... 7 min: Ederson's terrible pass from behind is intercepted by Valverde, who hurriedly brings it back into the box. Benzema tries to lay down on Rodrygo but the muffled pass isn't good and City are able to clear their lines. 5 min: Carlo Ancelotti usually looks inscrutable, but he's already standing on the touchline with his arms crossed and chewing furiously. 1 min: "We're not really here," roar the home fans. Pep Guardiola emerges from the tunnel and shares a moment with Carlo Ancelotti. and City get the ball rolling. Manchester City wear sky blue while Real Madrid trot in second-choice dark blue. Blue and white city flags fly from all four corners of the stadium. "Shadows of David and Goliath in Pep's decision to throw rocks at Benzema," quips Peter Oh. We'll be gone in a few minutes! Photo: Craig Brough/Reuters "We're adapting, adapting and trying to do our best." For City, however, it is only their third European Cup semi-final. They have a 50-50 record so far, having been beaten by Real Madrid in 2016 and passing Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 on aggregate last year. This is Real Madrid's 31st European Cup semi-final. They win more ties than they lose - just 16 to 14 - but they've had some half-shockers away over the years. See also: Champions League preview: The Joy of Six: European Cup semi-finals John Stones has passed a fitness test and - as far as Pep Guardiola's tactical intentions can be doubted - will start at right back. Gabriel Jesus, fresh from his four-goal game against Watford, retains his top-three spot as a reward. There is also good injury news for Real Madrid. David Alaba has recovered from a hamstring problem and will start at the heart of Real Madrid's defence. Yes, yes, Real Madrid have been European champions 13 times, while Manchester City's record stubbornly remains a grand ole fat round zero. But then look here at the all-time head-to-head record of the two clubs: Pep Guardiola, referring to all the big-eared trophies in the Bernabéu display case, says: "If we have to compete with history, we don't stand a chance. You get what he means and yet the story can also be City's friend because it's only been two years since they beat Real 2-1 away and 2-1 at home to knock out the Spanish club in the last 16. It's the last time they met, so these are surely the most relevant numbers of all. With both teams in the box seats to win their domestic leagues, this is a heavyweight duel between two in-form teams. Will old-school sepia-toned glamor prevail, or is it about time the sleek, modern superclub took over? Both teams are three games away from glory. Kick-off at the City of Manchester Stadium is at 8pm BST. It's on!

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Champions League semifinals, first leg – how it came about

Minute report: City flew out of the blocks and were worth his four goals, but they could have had more and Real stayed on their heels with three stunning strikes of their own. Scott Murray watched. (Author: Gardener)

Champions LeagueThis website uses cookies for analytics, personalized content and ads. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience. Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid: Champions League semi-finals first leg - how it happened Minute report: City flew out of the blocks and were worth his four goals but they could have had more and Real opened up with three stunning shots of their own the heels. Also read: Manchester City rush at Real Madrid but Benzema Panenka keeps tie Phil Foden speaks to BT Sport: “It was a great football game for the fans, lots of goals. But we played against a team that has won the Champions League many times. We know they will punish us if we pass the ball in dangerous areas, so we have to work on that for the second leg. But we have to take our chances more.” Bernardo Silva adds: “We were so, so good in the first 20 minutes. But we couldn't use our two-goal difference that we had three times. But this is the Champions League and it's still a good result for us, a goal ahead of them. It's true we could have scored more goals but that's football.” City lead to the Bernabeu next week and yet Real look happier when the teams leave the pitch. Silva, Laporte and Dias argue with the referee about the penalty throw while Foden looks a little dejected. Benzema allows himself a small smile, half contentment, half relief. He'll be grateful City didn't blow Real in the first 30 minutes. Seven goals, including six peaches, with Vinicius Junior's solo run from the halfway line and Benzema's Panenka being the best record harvest. 90 min +4: Foden's delivery isn't everything. Real clear their lines. 90 min +3: Nacho is booked for a clip about Mahrez. Then Foden wins a corner on the bottom right. One last chance for City to restore the two-goal cushion? 90 min +2: The game restarts. 90 min +1: A pause as a few pitch invaders reveal themselves. 90 min: There are three bonus minutes. 89 min: Having referred Zidane to the topic of Benzema's panenka, it's worth noting that for a millisecond it looked like he had a bit too much of it. But unlike Zizou in the 2006 World Cup final, he didn't hit the crossbar, instead the ball smacked into the net. 88 min: This is Vinicius' last act tonight. 87 mins: Valverde executes a graceful flick to the right to dribble away Benzema. He dances all the way across the front of the City box before feeding Vinicius down the left channel. Vinicius jumps past 12 meters from an acute angle. Benzema gives Ederson the eyes and Panenkas it! A Panenka in a Champions League semi-final, with his team two goals behind. Karim Benzema chips his penalty past Ederson. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images 85 min: Mahrez curls in low from the right. Dias almost pushes it home at the far post. He doesn't get touch so it's a corner. A tempting cross from the right, Dias is only centimeters away from the long stick. 83 min: Jesus is replaced by Sterling. 81 min: The free kick goes up into the penalty area. Laporte rises with Benzema. The ball hits his hand that was at his head. 80 min: Valverde intercepts a loose ball in the middle of the park and sends Benzema down the right flank. Benzema's low cross is swept away by Silva. Camavinga wins a free kick on the right. 79 mins: Modric dribbles down the inside left channel and pulls a shot to the right. 77 min: Ederson, under pressure from Benzema, hysterically speeds for miles from his box to the absolute blooter clear. A spectacular, sober conclusion that is celebrated almost as much as Silva's goal. Another amazing goal! The referee thinks about a free kick but waits with Silva in possession to see what happens. And what unfolds is Silva taking a touch into the box and whipping an unstoppable, rising shot into the top left corner! Bernardo Silva claps a shot into the top corner. 76 min: Mahrez dribbles into the Real box from the right, past a series of tackles. At the corner of the six-yard box, he bumps past Courtois but inches from the left post. 75 min: An assist for the referee. 72 mins: City enjoys some more of this deliciously sterile possession. Real sit back and keep their defensive form as it is. 70 min: Camavinga comes for Rodrygo. I don't remember Pep losing his head like that at Barcelona or Bayern, not even when Mourinho caught Tito Vilanova in the eye.” 69 min: Vinicius flips Dias down the inside left channel with embarrassing ease, then punches Laporte and shoves a ball into the box hoping to combine with Rodrygo. Danger to the city! Two shots later and it's a goal kick. However, it looked like Vinicius handled Laporte's pass, so VAR might have had something to say if Real scored. 68 min: Foden, De Bruyne and Zinchenko combine on the left. The latter pans a flat cross into the penalty area. He swings a leg at the ball and sends it whistling down to the left. 66 mins: Real seem happy enough to take it down a notch too. Both teams are enjoying a small period of sterile possession. 64 min: City slows things down a bit, which is probably a good idea. 62 mins: Modric shakes old hips and slides Benzema free to the left. He does not find Rodrygo in the center with his cross. city ​​clear. Real come back, Benzema twists his neck back for a header but the ball fails to arrive, eyebrowed by Dias out of harm's way. There are more goals in this game. 60 mins: Vinicius and Benzema combine on the left, the latter almost working for a shot. Not quite, but Real now look dangerous every time they attack. 59 min: Vinicius almost shoots down the left touchline again. It looks like he was just pushed to the side of the box by Dias, but the referees keep waving. Real are back... And what a goal that is! A pass down the left touchline. Vinicius turns Fernandinho on the halfway line and leaves him for dust. He shoots all the way to the left corner of the six yard box, opens his body and slides over Ederson and into the bottom right corner! Vinicius Junior strikes back for Real Madrid. Photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images 57 min: Carvajal crosses from the right. Militao puts a weak header into Ederson's arms. There the hearts of the city were in the mouth for a second. 56 min: Mahrez and Silva combine in the bottom right. Silva goes into a packed box. Such an evening is now. You have now achieved this goal! Fernandinho rampages down to the right. Jesus pulls Militao to the near post and drops the ball onto Foden, who heads in from six yards down the right! Phil Foden leads number three home. 54 mins: Pep Guardiola cautioned for scolding the referee, outraged by a midfield garden diversity challenge. 48 min: The crowd is roaring now! Mahrez pinches the ball from Militao and tears down the right inner channel. He's clearly in goal! He opens his body and creams a shot past Courtois... and off the left post! The rebound falls on Foden, who lifts his left leg to send an initial reaction shot towards goal. Carvajal blocks on the line and Rodri's attempt from the edge of the box is deflected to a corner. Riyad Mahrez's shot hits the post. Photo: Jan Kruger/UEFA/Getty Images 52 min: City begin to reestablish their dominance. Like the first half again but without the reward of an early goal. City are in dreamland! Foden scurries down the left touchline and cuts back for De Bruyne, who rolls into the mixer. Kroos lashes out on a clearance and doesn't really hit, which confuses Alaba on the edge of his six-yard box. Alaba is totally at sea, and the ball breaks to Jesus, who spins and can't miss. Gabriel Jesus makes two for City. 50 mins: Nothing comes out of the corner but City rush back in front almost immediately, De Bruyne curling in deep from the right. Foden fails to hit the cross at the far post and Carvajal escapes for a goal kick. 47 min: Real have some possession in the second half. Real gets the ball rolling for the second half. Speaking of the injury, that's exactly what Stones did, indicating to his manager he couldn't continue and forcing Pep into action. Real created next to nothing that night, but now look! Modric grinds into a tackle with Mahrez and sends Mendy out the left inside channel. Benzema beats Zinchenko on the edge of the box and deflects a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal. And so quickly Real is back! Karim Benzema grabs one for Real Madrid. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters Halftime entertainment … Connected: Henderson, Emery and night at a bar introducing Klopp's new Liverpool There's just enough time for Mahrez to send a cross into the mixer from the right, causing momentary panic among the Madrid defenders and the whistle blows. City could have been out of sight but Real limited the damage. Time for Carlo Ancelotti to get to work while Pep Guardiola prepares to give Mahrez the blow-dry treatment. 38 min: I mean... Vinicius had received quite a bit of joy down the left. But surely not tactically? 45 mins: De Bruyne blows an unusually mindless shot straight into the wall. There will be an extra minute. 44 min: A brilliant Zinchenko interception, with Valverde so close to sending Rodrygo to the right. City goes straight at the other end and Kroos puts Jesus upside down near the left corner of the box. Another free kick in a dangerous position. 43 min: Jesus turns Militao elegantly on the sideline to the left of the Real goal. His cross is deflected to the corner. Militao makes up for selling the dummy by powerfully heading away Foden's corner. but it's Mahrez who takes it and looks for a curler in the top left corner. Courtois is behind the whole time and hits clear with confidence. 40 min: Vinicius brings Silva to the right of the real box. 36 min: City is forced to make an early change. Stones, who passed a fitness test late, will be replaced by Fernandinho. 35 min: Suddenly everything is real! Rodrygo storms into the City box from the right and whips a fierce shot at goal. Ederson parried, nothing will come of the resulting corner. 26 min: It's going to be such a weird game. Now De Bruyne sends Mahrez free to the bottom right. He has Foden free in the middle. A pass rolled over and it was 3-0. But he instead attacks in the top right and whips into the side netting. Penny is said to be a fly on the wall of the City dressing room at halftime. 31 min: Zinchenko has a cross from 25 meters. His flat diagonal shot always swings past the right post. 30 mins: Benzema wins a corner on the left, then rolls in from the set piece for Alaba, who flicks a header just wide of the right post. Ederson wasn't entirely sure he'd achieve that if it had been on target. 29 min: It should be three points. 29 min: It should be three points. De Bruyne, absolute boss of this game, clearly leaves Foden behind on the left. Foden's first touch is not ideal and puts him a little too far to the left. Instead of firing home, he pulls a shot over the goal and wide right. 28 min: Now Ederson is almost Sadio Mané-d from Benzema on his goal line! 25 min: Slapstick shenanigans in the City Box. Ederson passes out to Dias, who immediately lets Benzema undress him. The ball goes to Vinicius, on the edge of the six-yard box. Dias comes back and knocks the ball over Ederson. It dribbles into the open goal and is deflected off the foot of the right post. Then the flag goes offside, which explains why Benzema didn't bother running the rebound home. 15 mins: Foden brings down Zinchenko's sharp left cross pass with an exquisite touch. From the sideline, he rolls a tempting ball through the six-yard box. Courtois, visibly shaken, was supposed to claim but let him roll over the goal with a confused head. Real are very lucky that Jesus was back on their heels and then the offside flag was raised. Phil Foden brings down a long ball. Photo: Dave Thompson/AP 23 min: Vinicius and Benzema one-two down the left. They almost find a way through the city's back line, but Dias brilliantly sees the danger to intercept and clear them. "As a City fan, I'd be concerned as Pep now has nearly three hours of play to think about some new, self-destructive adjustments to the Finals line-up," joked Zach Neeley. 21 min: Nothing comes out of the corner, but that's amazing. City have been excellent from the start but Real have been a nervous mess so far. 20 mins: More amateur nonsense as Carvajal flies out a simple back pass for a corner. Real is here to take away. 18 min: Kroos plays the corner briefly and, together with Carvajal, manages to ball in an awkward style. Real Madrid's noggins are spinning and swimming right now. If they're not careful, City could soon lose sight of this. 17 min: Militao and Alaba didn't look too smart there either. Real really need their attack to get out of this mess as the defense doesn't look too smart. Benzema tries to get something going and feeds Vinicius Junior into the city box on the left. Vinicius was supposed to return it with a pull back, but he goes for the spectacular curler instead. Corner. What a start for City! After stroking it around for a while, Mahrez snakes in from the right, cutting back and curling into De Bruyne, who runs from deep to split Real's defense and hit the cross, the ball with a brave shot steers into the lower left corner, controlled header from a short distance. Kevin De Bruyne opens the scoring. Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian 13 min: Ancelotti is now so stunned he's stopped chewing altogether. He's got a thousand yard view of it. 3. Min: That came after one minute and 34 seconds. Such a simple but beautiful goal. Phil Foden chases down Kevin De Bruyne to celebrate his fine header goal. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images 10 min: Ederson's gift from a distance aside, Real have achieved nothing. 9 min: This goal, however. Mahrez gently stroked the cross and De Bruyne, who had timed his run perfectly, could hardly miss... 7 min: Ederson's terrible pass from behind is intercepted by Valverde, who hurriedly brings it back into the box. Benzema tries to lay down on Rodrygo but the muffled pass isn't good and City are able to clear their lines. 5 min: Carlo Ancelotti usually looks inscrutable, but he's already standing on the touchline with his arms crossed and chewing furiously. 1 min: "We're not really here," roar the home fans. Pep Guardiola emerges from the tunnel and shares a moment with Carlo Ancelotti. and City get the ball rolling. Manchester City wear sky blue while Real Madrid trot in second-choice dark blue. Blue and white city flags fly from all four corners of the stadium. "Shadows of David and Goliath in Pep's decision to throw rocks at Benzema," quips Peter Oh. We'll be gone in a few minutes! Photo: Craig Brough/Reuters "We're adapting, adapting and trying to do our best." For City, however, it is only their third European Cup semi-final. They have a 50-50 record so far, having been beaten by Real Madrid in 2016 and passing Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 on aggregate last year. This is Real Madrid's 31st European Cup semi-final. They win more ties than they lose - just 16 to 14 - but they've had some half-shockers away over the years. See also: Champions League preview: The Joy of Six: European Cup semi-finals John Stones has passed a fitness test and - as far as Pep Guardiola's tactical intentions can be doubted - will start at right back. Gabriel Jesus, fresh from his four-goal game against Watford, retains his top-three spot as a reward. There is also good injury news for Real Madrid. David Alaba has recovered from a hamstring problem and will start at the heart of Real Madrid's defence. Yes, yes, Real Madrid have been European champions 13 times, while Manchester City's record stubbornly remains a grand ole fat round zero. But then look here at the all-time head-to-head record of the two clubs: Pep Guardiola, referring to all the big-eared trophies in the Bernabéu display case, says: "If we have to compete with history, we don't stand a chance. You get what he means and yet the story can also be City's friend because it's only been two years since they beat Real 2-1 away and 2-1 at home to knock out the Spanish club in the last 16. It's the last time they met, so these are surely the most relevant numbers of all. With both teams in the box seats to win their domestic leagues, this is a heavyweight duel between two in-form teams. Will old-school sepia-toned glamor prevail, or is it about time the sleek, modern superclub took over? Both teams are three games away from glory. Kick-off at the City of Manchester Stadium is at 8pm BST. It's on!

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The latest Champions League results and goals as Vinicius strikes

Follow all the action live from the semi-final first leg at the Etihad (Author: Gardener)

Champions LeagueFollow all the action as Manchester City host Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals. Pep Guardiola's side kept their cool in a grueling and turbulent quarter-final clash against Atletico Madrid, with Kevin De Bruyne's goal in the first leg proving enough to seal City's passage to the last four. Guardiola has worries about the fitness of several key defenders with Joao Cancelo ruled out and Kyle Walker and John Stones both missing Monday's training session, leaving the City manager puzzled over how to organize his defence. City will nonetheless go into the game full of confidence after maintaining their one-point lead in the Premier League title race with a 5-1 win over Watford at the weekend. Madrid appeared close to being eliminated from the tournament twice, first by Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 and then by Chelsea in the quarter-finals, but both times the brilliance of Karim Benzema and Luka Modric somehow helped defeat Carlo Ancelottis side across the line. The Italian had two major injury concerns of his own but while Casemiro has only sat on the bench, David Alaba has been deemed fit to give Madrid a significant boost. The Spanish giants have also had the luxury of being able to focus almost entirely on this clash as the club are now just a point away from winning the La Liga title. 58 mins: Fernandinho looks a bit leggy as Vinicius runs the ball towards him. The city must be aware of this threat and respond to it. 55 minutes: Real Madrid does not go away! Madrid sends the ball up the left wing to Vinicius Jr. Fernandinho flies up the pitch with the press but Vinicius notices him and lets the ball pass before spinning off Fernandinho's shoulder. He catches the ball, drives into the penalty area and steers it into the right corner! 53 minutes: City has their third! Fernandinho nods the ball and plays a nice one-two with Mahrez to fall behind on the right wing. He smashes a cross into the center of the box where Phil Foden gets in space and nods the ball into the back net! Real Madrid went to sleep there but it's a great move by Fernandinho. 52 mins: City wins the ball deep in Real's half and delivers it to De Bruyne. He takes it to the edge of the box and shoots, but it's a good block from Eder Militao to thwart him. 51 minutes: De Bruyne is fed in on the right side of the penalty area and wastes no time with a pass back into the six-yard box. Foden expects the pass and struggles with Carvajal to get there first, but the defender is strong and holds him back long enough to get the ball away. The ball is flicked up to Riyad Mahrez, who flips the ball around Eder Militao and sweeps it into the box. Standing wide open, he aims for the back corner but fires his guided shot at the post! The ball bounces to Phil Foden who volleys it back towards goal only for Dani Carvajal to clear it off the line! Kick-off: David Alaba will be replaced by Nacho at Real Madrid seemingly through injury. No other changes at Manchester City. Just the five goals in two games for Man City's Gabriel Jesus. Kevin De Bruyne opened the top scorer with the fastest goal in the Champions League semifinals. At 93 seconds, De Bruyne's opener was also the earliest goal Manchester City have ever scored from the start in a Champions League game. 40 goals this season for Real Madrid's Karim Benzema. 45+1 mins: Manchester City goes into the break with a goal advantage. They started quickly and could have had three or four before Real Madrid responded through Karim Benzema. Can City add to their record in the second half? 45 mins: Gabriel Jesus has a good night for City. The ball comes to him just outside the penalty area and he draws in Toni Kroos before releasing the ball and winning a free kick. One minute stoppage time. 42 mins: Vinicius Jr backtracks to help Real Madrid defensively. Bernardo Silva brings the ball down the right wing and is shouldered to the ground by Vinicius. City wins a free kick. Mahrez whips it into the six-yard box but Thibaut Courtois gets there to hit it clear. 39 mins: John Stones was a doubt for tonight's game and it looks like he's not quite fit. Pep Guardiola is forced into an early move as Fernandinho comes on at right-back. Real Madrid are never out of the game. Rodrygo gets the ball and dribbles into the box from the right before putting one on goal that Ederson keeps out. 33 min: He only needs half a chance! Luka Modric wins the ball deep in City's half and puts the ball down on Ferland Mendy. He swings a cross into the box and Karim Benzema pinches in front of Oleksandr Zinchenko to put the ball in the near bottom corner! 32 mins: Man City throw men onto the pitch and urge Real Madrid to defend deep The ball comes over to Zinchenko, who has space in front of him on the left to touch and fire a shot towards goal, but he drags it past the far post. The third goal just won't come for City. They win the ball right in their own half and Mahrez sends it down the inside right channel to Jesus. He slides it to De Bruyne, who puts the ball in behind Madrid's back line and Foden plays it into the box from the left. Foden takes control and fires a shot back towards the far post, but he painfully misses the target! Ederson is too casual with the ball and passes it to Ruben Dias under pressure from Vinicius Jr. Dias tries to turn him around the corner but Benzema attacks him and punches the ball to his teammate. Man City then quickly break out on the pitch. Mahrez, who sprints into the penalty area, gets the ball. Gabriel Jesus is open about the penalty but Mahrez goes it alone and slams his shot into the side netting! 24 minutes: Riyad Mahrez brings the ball down the right side and gets into trouble. He slips and loses the ball while Ferland Mendy shields him for a goal kick. 21 mins: Man City wins a corner which Kevin De Bruyne lashes into the box. It just flicks over John Stones' head before falling on Phil Foden. The City fans encourage him to shoot and he does, but David Alaba blocks the try in the six-yard box and clears Real's lines. Luka Modric squeezes Bernardo Silva and wins the ball in the air by nodding it up to Karim Benzema. He directs a pass to Vinicius Jr., who enters the box, opening up for a shot towards the far post and sending it wide of the target. Oleksandr Zinchenko flicks the ball over the top and plays Phil Foden behind the lines. Foden keeps the ball in play with a skillful first touch but shoves it into the center of the box. Gabriel Jesus tries to get there but David Alaba slaps him on the ball and clears Madrid. Great job by Manchester City doubling their lead just after the 10 minute mark! Phil Foden runs down the left wing and crashes an air pass. He puts it down to Kevin De Bruyne, who crosses it into the box. David Alaba slips in front of Gabriel Jesus but doesn't get the ball under control and it lands perfectly for the striker. Thibaut Courtois comes off his line but he's late and Jesus shoves him into the far corner! 8 mins: Man City are patient in possession and there really isn't much of a threat from Real Madrid. The hosts play the ball around their own last third and try to put Real out of position. They eventually pass the ball away and Rodrygo comes to life with a sprint down the right wing, only to be tackled by Laporte, who sends the ball wide. 5 mins: After a few header clearances, the ball is pushed into midfield where Rodri gets there ahead of Federico Valverde. City hits it back to Ederson but makes a mistake and passes it from behind. Valverde intercepts a bad pass and pushes it back into the penalty area. Rodrygo is floating but Aymeric Laporte slaps him on the ball and hits it clear. 2nd Minute: Huge goal for Man City! A perfect start for Pep Guardiola's men. City seem to get themselves into the game by passing the ball around the defensive line inside the Real Madrid half. Ruben Dias sends the ball down the right wing to Riyad Mahrez. He slices inwards and moves away from three defenders before firing the ball into the penalty area. Kevin De Bruyne runs from the deep, ducks Dani Carvajal and heads him home to put City ahead! Manchester City open the game with a pass back to Ederson. He shoots it down the right wing where the ball bounces out of play for a Real Madrid throw-in. Karim Benzema has scored 15 goals in his last 11 games for Real Madrid, including a 92nd-minute winner at Sevilla. However, he missed two penalties in Osasuna, becoming the first player since April 2006 to miss two in the same La Liga game. Benzema has scored 39 goals in 40 games in all competitions this season at the age of 34. His tally of 25 league goals so far this season is his most successful season for Madrid, surpassing his 24 tally of 2015/16. He has surpassed the 20-goal mark in the Spanish top flight for the fourth straight season, becoming the seventh player to accomplish the feat. Manchester City continue their quest for their first Champions League title on Tuesday night when they meet Real Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final. Pep Guardiola's City defeated Real 2-1 in both games of their last Champions League game of 2020 to reach the quarterfinals. Here we take a look at some memorable clashes between fellow British teams and record 13-time champions Spain. Seven memorable games between British teams and Real Madrid Carlo Ancelotti says that everyone was betting on Real Madrid reaching the semi-finals but that he always believed in his players to reach that stage. "There are clearly two teams in the semi-finals that everyone has bet against - and that's us and Villarreal [who face Liverpool]," Ancelotti said. “I always say that Real Madrid will definitely play against everyone. "Our history - we've won 13 titles in this competition - makes it easier for the players because they feel positively how heavy the Real Madrid shirt weighs in a Champions League game. “They feel capable of anything, like they fought against PSG and Chelsea to qualify. Real Madrid's history means a lot to us – more than the rivals.” Will this be the year when Manchester City finally lift the trophy? Manchester City have conceded more than once in just one of their last 14 Champions League knockout games. Real Madrid, meanwhile, have scored at least twice in seven of their last eight in this competition and have scored three goals in four of their last five away games in all competitions. Pep Guardiola has urged his players to play against the team rather than the club as Manchester City prepare to face Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals. City host the 13-time European champions in the first leg of the round of 16 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday in a bid to reach the final for the second time after finishing second last year. Guardiola is aware that City's history hardly compares to that of the Spanish giants, but he is confident the current Premier League leaders can match them on the field. "If we have to compete with history, we don't stand a chance - they're better," Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference. Man City have won six of their last seven Champions League knockout games and drawn one at the Etihad Stadium. Their last home defeat in the knockout stages came in April 2018, when they lost 2-1 to their Premier League arch-rivals Liverpool in that season's quarter-finals. Raheem Sterling has revealed he's eyeing Wayne Rooney's English record 30 Champions League goals. Manchester City striker Sterling is currently second on the all-time list of England goalscorers at 24, alongside Rooney's former Manchester United team-mate Paul Scholes. Sterling will be hoping for a chance to add to his tally when City take on Real Madrid in Tuesday's semi-final first leg at the Etihad Stadium. The 27-year-old, who has scored three times in the Champions League this season, said: "It's like everything - (after) your professional debut you move on to the next thing, the first goal. "After the first goal, you always have to try to do better as a person, and that's how it is for me every season." Words from Pep Guardiola in tonight's game program: "There is not much bigger than this game ... Manchester City receives Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg on Tuesday. Here, the PA news agency looks at the decorated Spain opponents who stand between Pep Guardiola's men and a second consecutive showcase final: Raheem Sterling spoke about what it's like to face Real Madrid in the Champions League. Speaking at a pre-game press conference, he said: “We know – not just from this season but from previous seasons and history – how good they are in this competition. “They scored late goals but we have players who have been in high-pressure games and we know how to deal with that. I think come tomorrow we will be alright. “Not having a game [last weekend] is an advantage for them, but at the end of the day, tomorrow matters: who is mentally and physically prepared and who wants it more? All we can control is making sure we are properly prepared. It's a two-legged game. We can't focus on their previous games. “Every season we are a club that wants to fight for all the big trophies. The Champions League is the one we don't have in our hands and the one we focus on. It's a competition every young player wants to be in and it was no different growing up. Real Madrid is in the house. Karim Benzema is often a quiet figure in the dressing room, but there are poignant moments when the striker feels the need to speak up. One came at half-time during the Champions League second leg against Paris Saint-Germain, when Real Madrid were 2-0 down on aggregate and went into the last 16 without much of a struggle. "We are Madrid. These words have come to define their Champions League season. They were repeated at so many crucial moments in the squad, right down to the break before extra time in the quarter-finals against Chelsea. Madrid didn't give up. Benzema gave even more and scored another crucial goal - and another late goal - to finish seventh in that knockout round alone. Karim Benzema bears the burden as Real Madrid look to outmaneuver Man City Man City have gone 12 home Champions League games unbeaten since losing 2-1 to Lyon on Matchday 1 of 2018/19. Manchester City have not conceded a goal in this competition since the group stage and have kept seven clean sheets in their last 11 matches in the Champions League knockout stages, including two against Atletico Madrid in the preliminary round. Carlo Ancelotti is happy to have proved the doubters wrong but won't consider Real Madrid's Champions League season a success unless they reach the final. The 13-time European champion was not one of the favorites in the competition at the start of the season. They have since weathered a group with Italian champions Inter Milan, beating coveted Paris St Germain and last year's winners Chelsea to reach the last four. With the Spanish giants also on the verge of regaining the La Liga crown, they are in good form as they face Manchester City for a place in next month's Paris spectacle. Real Madrid manager Ancelotti, who returned to the club for a second spell after leaving Everton last summer, said: “I remember what the press and the public were saying. There are two teams in the semifinals that nobody thought could come here - Real Madrid and Villarreal. Carlo Ancelotti: Real Madrid must reach the final to consider the season a success Pep Guardiola makes four changes to the Manchester City side who started against Watford last time out. Joao Cancelo is suspended so John Stones comes on at right-back. Fernandinho, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling are all out, with Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez brought in. Carlo Ancelotti also makes some changes to Real's starting XI. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos return in midfield in place of Dani Ceballos and Eduardo Camavinga, while Vinicius Jr replaces Marco Asensio alongside Rodrygo and Karim Benzema. Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti says he hasn't ruled out Eduardo Camavinga against City tonight but prefers the impact the midfielder can have off the bench. He said: "[Eduardo Camavinga] can play from the start but it's clear when he comes in he gives the team energy. When the intensity fades and Camavinga, Rodrygo and Valverde are fresh, you can change the game with the energy they bring. Both teams have won, drawn and lost two of the last six Champions League games they have played against each other, with an aggregate score of 7-7. Real Madrid are reportedly putting the finishing touches on a free transfer dive for Antonio Rudiger. According to The Guardian, the Spanish giants have reached a verbal agreement on a four-year deal with the outgoing Chelsea defender, which is expected to be worth at least £200,000 a week. Who will line up for Manchester City tonight? Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says his side take on Real Madrid tonight as Los Blancos have lifted an unrivaled 13 trophies in Europe's top competition. Guardiola, who is trying to lead City to their maiden Champions League triumph, said: "The story is there, we can't change it, but it's 11-11 with a moving ball. I've told the players, they should enjoy this moment, it's an honor. Of course you want to reach the final, but never underestimate what we've done to get back here.” If Chelsea were to wonder exactly how they left the Champions League at the Bernabeu, their manager actually summed it up with mostly searing clarity . Two mistakes you can't have against Real Madrid. They weren't just truths of the evening, but of the entire Champions League. Real Madrid have proved them more than anyone else. For one thing, for all the old European gravitas and prestige, it's a competition where the best team only occasionally wins. Tuchel was right even if he was wrong that Chelsea were unlucky. Manchester City reached the last four after a fast and furious clash with Atletico Madrid that made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Manchester City did enough, Atletico Madrid didn't do much at all except turn a football game into a price war. That could mean a higher cost for Pep Guardiola as that 0-0 left both Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne injured, but it's difficult to see the value for Diego Simeone. A game that eventually looked set to build into something of a grandstand finish was instead reduced to a brawl as the Spanish champions were also reduced to 10 men. However, Guardiola has changed City's character. This brought a second consecutive Champions League semi-final for the first time in history. Man City battle fiery Atletico to form Champions League semi-finals with Real Madrid. How did the teams reach the semifinals? Real Madrid met Chelsea in one of the big European games last time out in the Champions League. It was a hard-to-believe night at the Bernabeu that should have Chelsea asking exactly how they went out. Many will rightly point to the seemingly everlasting greatness of Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, who together have evoked the connection's second sensational comeback. Chelsea should still only look out for themselves. They had won the game, going 3-0 on the evening and 4-3 on aggregate, only on fundamental sloppiness to allow Real Madrid to come through with two to take it 5-4 after extra time. This feeling is certainly all the more profound when you feel – not for the first time – that Madrid just aren't that good. They would like to point out that they only have the players to take advantage of any circumstance and expose each team's mistakes because there can be absolutely no doubts about Modric and Benzema. The France star was the match-winner again, scoring his 38th goal of the season in his 38th game and is the standout player of this Champions League season. Karim Benzema was Madrid's hero in the quarter-final game against Chelsea. He scored a hat-trick in the first leg and found the back of the net in extra time in the second game to put Real through on aggregate. Pep Guardiola previewed Manchester City's final Champions League knockout game against a Madrid outfit, dismantling oft-repeated criticism that he was "reconsidering" those types of games. "I love thinking too much and coming up with stupid tactics," he explained ahead of the crushing 1-0 aggregate win over Atletico Madrid. As Real Madrid prepare to visit the Etihad for the first leg of a semi-final on Tuesday night, City will struggle to field the required 11 in their natural positions after a series of injuries and suspensions hit Guardiola's defence. When Guardiola held his pre-match press conference on Monday afternoon, Kyle Walker and John Stones were both still in doubt. Today is the training session, I don't know if they will come out," he said. Manchester City will make a late decision on whether to play Kyle Walker and John Stones but manager Pep Guardiola admits both players have "doubts" for tonight's game. Walker has been out with a fractured ankle since City's quarter-final second leg against Atletico Madrid earlier this month, and Stones missed Saturday's Premier League win against Watford with a muscle problem. Kevin De Bruyne and Nathan Ake both played in pain against Watford and may not be there, but City's only guaranteed absence is Joao Cancelo, who misses the game through suspension. Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Mariano are also missing for Real Madrid with David Alaba. Welcome to The Independent's coverage of tonight's Champions League semi-final first leg from the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City host Real Madrid. Pep Guardiola's side are aiming to reach the final in Europe's top competition in a row after losing 1-0 to Chelsea in the final last season. Chelsea beat Real Madrid in the quarter-finals en route to winning the title last year, but Real got their back this season, sending the Blues out of the tournament at the same stage. City themselves eliminated Real's local rivals - and LaLiga champions - Atletico Madrid. This semi-final is a big draw for both clubs who are battling for the European and domestic doubles this year. Real Madrid are now all but certain of winning La Liga, while Man City faces a battle to retain their Premier League crown ahead of Liverpool. If Madrid reach the Champions League, they will be in contention for the 14th trophy while Man City are still in the hunt for their first title in the competition.

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What the Celtics just accomplished wasn't a high point, it was a confirmation

Their title aspirations are based on reality and the Celtics are stronger than Kyrie Irving ever imagined when he left them three years ago. (Author: Gardener)

Kyrie IrvingJaylen Brown, who scored two points in Game 4, sensed a "shift" in the Celtics' fortunes months ago. The Celtics' seismic shift from an annoying team that has found ways of turning defeat from an almost certain victory to a team whose every contributing player is tough, balanced and intent on not only their own abilities, but theirs Maximizing his surroundings will be the stuff of legend when this season concludes with the Duck Boats being called into action. It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say that the Celtics broke the nets with a four-game first-round sweep that culminated in a 116-112 clincher on Monday night in which the winners were never behind. The Nets have already suffered various stress fractures across the organization, largely due to the legendary irresponsibility of Kyrie Irving, a dynamic talent who fails to make his teammates any better and severely degrades team culture. But a quick obituary for the loser is that this series feels awfully familiar: Kyrie ruins everything. We already knew this firsthand from his pathetic quittin' time approach to the lethargic playoff loss to the Bucks three years ago, his final act as Celtic before heading to Brooklyn, and what was suspected to be a ready-made dynasty with pal Kevin Durant. It took three years and an organizational reshuffle, but the Celtics Irving left behind are stronger than he ever imagined when he got out. The story now follows this Celtics team's quest to accomplish what would have looked like a sham just three months ago, or at the very time Brown sent out a certain tweet that now looks amazingly prophetic. "The energy is about to shift," Brown tweeted Jan. 31 at 11:32 a.m. Now the Celtics had already played better, winning 8 games out of 12 to go up to 26-25 from their 18-21 start. They beat the Heat by 30 points on the night of Brown's tweet and then won 24 of 30 games to end the regular season, often by double-digit margins. They solved everything, and Brown's tweet suggests the players knew before either of us were aware there was even a possibility. It would be silly to call the Nets series the ultimate confirmation of Brown's tweet, or really the culmination of anything, given the possibility of so much more right ahead. No, this series was not a high point. Confirming that Jayson Tatum is now an all-around superstar who delights in slaying basketball heroes like Durant, whom he used to give in to. Confirming that basketball sharing and relentless, suffocating defense remains the most aesthetically pleasing path to excellence. Confirmation that these Celtics, who were playing without Tatum at 2:48 a.m. Monday after he fouled the Scott Foster call of every Scott Foster call, collectively possess the poise and discipline to prevail in scenarios where they only a few months would have collapsed back. That last point was illustrated by some information shared by ESPN's Kevin Pelton after the game. Those unfamiliar with this Celtics team could interpret this to mean that the series was closer than the four-game result to any suggests. If you've watched every game in this series, you know this is the wrong way to read it. Perhaps the tenor of the series would have been different if Marcus Smart hadn't found Tatum in Irving's cup for that great spinning layup to beat the buzzer in Game 1. But they had a determination to get the most out of the moment, then beat the Nets pretty much every way imaginable in the next three games. They bounced back from a 17-point deficit in Game 2, took charge in the second quarter of Game 3, and were never in the clincher for a second. Sure, the tension mounted and the Brooklyn crowd awoke from their sleep when Tatum fouled in Game 4. But the Celtics didn't rattle in his absence, with Jaylen Brown taking over as the lead scorer, Smart leading the defensive mayhem and leading he hit crucial free throws and Al Horford scoring the crucial putback to take the Celtics to 4 by 13.7 seconds bring. We didn't even give credit to Grant Williams, who grabbed four 3-pointers in Game 4, gave Durant body defensively and seemed to win the superstar's respect, or Derrick White, who had 7 points and six rebounds in the first half and the second half spent dishing out clever passes to open shooters. Really, that's the biggest difference between the Celtics and the failed so-called Super Team they just defeated. The nets have the kind of guys who enjoy stepping on an opponent's logo. The Celtics have the kind of guys that rise in the biggest moments, share each other's basketball and each other's success. So this is what it looks like when the energy shifts.

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What the Celtics just accomplished wasn't a high point, it was a confirmation

Their title aspirations are based on reality and the Celtics are stronger than Kyrie Irving ever imagined when he left them three years ago. (Author: Gardener)

Kyrie IrvingThe Celtics' seismic shift from an annoying team that has found ways of turning defeat from an almost certain victory to a team whose every contributing player is tough, balanced and intent on not only their own abilities, but theirs Maximizing his surroundings will be the stuff of legend when this season concludes with the Duck Boats being called into action. The Celtics' seismic shift from an annoying team that has found ways of turning defeat from an almost certain victory to a team whose every contributing player is tough, balanced and intent on not only their own abilities, but theirs Maximizing his surroundings will be the stuff of legend when this season concludes with the Duck Boats being called into action. In these satisfying hours after the systematic crushing of the Brooklyn dynasty that never was, I have only two questions about this juggernaut and its very real goals of Banner 18: In those satisfying hours after the systematic crushing of the Brooklyn dynasty that never was through The Celtics What, I just have two questions about this juggernaut and his very real goals for Banner 18: It wouldn't be entirely accurate to suggest that the Celtics broke the nets with a four-game first-round sweep that ended with a 116-112 clincher culminated Monday night in which the winners never lagged behind. The Nets have already suffered various stress fractures across the organization, largely due to the legendary irresponsibility of Kyrie Irving, a dynamic talent who fails to make his teammates any better and severely degrades team culture. But a quick obituary for the loser is that this series feels awfully familiar: Kyrie ruins everything. We already knew this firsthand from his pathetic quittin' time approach to the lethargic playoff loss to the Bucks three years ago, his final act as Celtic before heading to Brooklyn, and what was suspected to be a ready-made dynasty with pal Kevin Durant. It took three years and an organizational reshuffle, but the Celtics Irving left behind are stronger than he ever imagined when he got out. The story now follows this Celtics team's quest to accomplish what would have looked like a sham just three months ago, or at the very time Brown sent out a certain tweet that now looks amazingly prophetic. "The energy is about to shift," Brown tweeted Jan. 31 at 11:32 a.m. Now the Celtics had already played better, winning 8 games out of 12 to go up to 26-25 from their 18-21 start. They beat the Heat by 30 points on the night of Brown's tweet and then won 24 of 30 games to end the regular season, often by double-digit margins. They solved everything, and Brown's tweet suggests the players knew before either of us were aware there was even a possibility. It would be silly to call the Nets series the ultimate confirmation of Brown's tweet, or really the culmination of anything, given the possibility of so much more right ahead. No, this series was not a high point. Confirming that Jayson Tatum is now an all-around superstar who delights in slaying basketball heroes like Durant, whom he used to give in to. Confirming that basketball sharing and relentless, suffocating defense remains the most aesthetically pleasing path to excellence. Confirmation that these Celtics, who were playing without Tatum at 2:48 a.m. Monday after he fouled the Scott Foster call of every Scott Foster call, collectively possess the poise and discipline to prevail in scenarios where they only a few months would have collapsed back. That last point was illustrated by some information shared by ESPN's Kevin Pelton after the game. He noted that the combined winning margin in the Celtics' four wins (18 points) made it the third closest win in playoff history, behind only the Warriors' win over the Bullets in the 1975 Finals and the Cavaliers' first round win over the Pacers in '17, both with an aggregate lead of 16 points. Those unfamiliar with this Celtics team could interpret this to mean that the series was closer than the four-game result to any suggests. If you've watched every game in this series, you know this is the wrong way to read it. Perhaps the tenor of the series would have been different if Marcus Smart hadn't found Tatum in Irving's cup for that great spinning layup to beat the buzzer in Game 1. But they had a determination to get the most out of the moment, then beat the Nets pretty much every way imaginable in the next three games. They bounced back from a 17-point deficit in Game 2, took charge in the second quarter of Game 3, and were never in the clincher for a second. Sure, the tension mounted and the Brooklyn crowd awoke from their sleep when Tatum fouled in Game 4. But the Celtics didn't rattle in his absence, with Jaylen Brown taking over as the lead scorer, Smart leading the defensive mayhem and leading he hit crucial free throws and Al Horford scoring the crucial putback to take the Celtics to 4 by 13.7 seconds bring. We didn't even give credit to Grant Williams, who grabbed four 3-pointers in Game 4, gave Durant body defensively and seemed to win the superstar's respect, or Derrick White, who had 7 points and six rebounds in the first half and the second half spent dishing out clever passes to open shooters. Really, that's the biggest difference between the Celtics and the failed so-called Super Team they just defeated. The nets have the kind of guys who enjoy stepping on an opponent's logo. The Celtics have the kind of guys that rise in the biggest moments, share each other's basketball and each other's success. So this is what it looks like when the energy shifts.

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Kyrie's biggest contribution to Celtics was abandoning them

For three years, Celtics fans have given it to Kyrie Irving at every turn. But as John Tomase writes after Boston's win over Brooklyn, we should thank him for setting the Cs on the road to success. (Author: Gardener)

KyrieNow that he's officially gone from our lives for the rest of this season, and hopefully forever, Kyrie Irving is no longer quoted in this column. We endured his Boston ramblings for two years, which felt like a life sentence, served only to establish that he is the impeccable star of his own narrative, imparting wisdom to those tragically unwilling or unable to understand its depths. Irving ends up drowning his fan bases in word soup, and the moment you realize he's not really drawing on his experience as a champion but is actually speaking narcissistic gibberish, it's time to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and to accept that the matrix has you. Let Brooklyn's fans lament a future where this destroyer of franchises looks in the mirror and sees not an agent of chaos but a prince with the power to shape the roster. Good luck to Nets superstar Kevin Durant, coach (for now) Steve Nash and owner Joseph Tsai. On Monday night, the Celtics completed a shocking, exhilarating and karmically fulfilling sweep of the nets. It came just a year after Irving and co. blasted doors the Celtics in five games and hastened a significant leadership change. Danny Ainge went out, Brad Stevens went up and Ime Udoka came in. No one could have predicted that the latter pair would oversee a legitimate NBA Finals run just a year later. Irving's departure in 2019 had reportedly eliminated that possibility forever as superstar Jayson Tatum and all-star Jaylen Brown's countdown clocks inexorably ticked towards midnight and an ugly organizational reset. But instead of crushing the Celtics, Irving's departure actually saved them. Notoriously moody and unreliable, Irving is not destined to be the face of a functional franchise, and in the world of sliding doors that keeps him in Boston, consider anything that changes. This would be Irving's team instead of Tatum's, and it's now clear that the latter's growing pains while learning to lead are indeed what made him the man. It felt cathartic to watch him drill multiple shots over Irving in the second half on Monday, his former teammate unable to offer even token resistance, as if Tatum was announcing, "This is my time , and by the way you are very small." If Irving had stayed, Tatum's running mate probably wouldn't even be here. It's easy to imagine the C's trading Brown for someone like Anthony Davis, another high-maintenance, unlucky superstar who would have helped make the Celtics as gleeful as a parole hearing. Irving's presence would also have prevented Marcus Smart from becoming the league's most tenacious point guard and the first backcourt to win Defensive Player of the Year since Gary Payton nearly 30 years ago. There's also little chance forward Al Horford would have returned, as it took a paycheck from Irving's replacement, Kemba Walker, to bring the big man back to Boston. All Horford has done since is turn back the clock at the age of 35 as he shoots for his first title. Let the record show that his late putback effectively sealed victory on Monday. Irving is particularly ill-suited to play in Udoka's shifting defense system as he doesn't always try. He is also frequently unavailable, this year because he refused to be vaccinated, but in previous seasons because of numerous injuries. Now in his 11th season, he has surpassed 60 games just four times; Looking back, we should have read between the lines as he only played 11 games at Duke before becoming No. 2 overall anyway. Irving is plagued by a restlessness that led him to first divorce LeBron James in Cleveland, then wave goodbye to Boston and now commit to the Nets, even as he talks about the future without mentioning Nash. Irving thinks he's a brick, but he's actually a brick made of TNT. To see the Celtics play with energy and passion while the confused Nets alternated between argumentative and sullen only reinforced how badly the Celtics needed a fresh start. They got one the day Irving broke his promise to stay. For three years we cursed his name but it's time to let it go because the Celtics could only have done it without him.

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Celtics finish Nets without Jayson Tatum, Ime Udoka's exploits and more Game 4 takeaways

The Celtics finished the nets in Game 4 for the sweep. (Author: Gardener)

Game 4Outsiders claimed it was foolish for the Celtics to lean against the Nets in a first-round series. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were formidable opponents and the Celtics could have seen their postseason hopes dashed early. All they did was execute at the end of games - which was once a big problem area - with the latest result taking a 116-112 win over the Nets on Monday at the Barclays Center. The Celtics emphasized that they weren't dodging anyone and all they did was sweep the nets in the first round. The Celtics led by as much as 15 points, but the Nets kept falling. The only difference was that at no point in the game did the C's let the Nets lead. The Celtics also continue to finish clutch games. There was much concern as Jayson Tatum fell out and the Cs held on to a lead. * Boston Celtics Round 2 Playoff Tickets On Sale: Shop for Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 1 and Game 2 tickets in Boston. Tatum led the Celtics with 29 points and five assists. Durant eventually went off the field for 39 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, but it wasn't enough for the Nets to win. The Celtics are now awaiting their fate in the second round between the Bucks or Bulls, though Milwaukee holds the series' 3-1 advantage over Chicago. Here are four takeaways from Boston's Game 4 win over Brooklyn: The Celtics continue to prove they can finish games, but Monday was a different test. Tatum fouled 2:49 into the game on a questionable offensive foul. The Celtics were still six points ahead, but the Nets were desperate to win. The Nets cut it down to a one-point game with less than 90 seconds remaining, but that was as close as they came to victory. Brooklyn never had an advantage in Monday's game, and the Celtics led the Nets into the offseason. "Another hard-fought win in what is probably the closest lap you'll ever see," said Boston coach Ime Udoka. While the Celtics have plenty of playoff experience, it was Udoka's first-ever postseason streak. And he scored his first win of the playoff series against his old stint with the Nets and Brooklyn coach Steve Nash. It's been an impressive four-game streak from the Celtics coaching staff. Smart pointed out that their offensive adjustments are notable as the Nets improved their physicality throughout the series. Aside from one-off appearances, the defense kept Durant and Kyrie Irving from fleeing. Udoka said he'll celebrate a bit on the flight home to Boston. But otherwise, he said, staff will start game planning for their next opponent starting Tuesday. "You have to take your hat off to this man," Smart said. The Celtics were fortunate to have Rob Williams available as Al Horford struggled early on. Monday was the cautious approach again as Williams played 14 minutes and finished with three points, five rebounds and three fouls. He had a couple of notable plays, including completing a lob from Smart. But Williams clearly looked rusty as he worked his way back into game form. Remarkably, keeping Horford fresh in the second round was also a win for the Celtics. The Celtics are now getting the luxury of several days off, which Tatum says they all need. The Bucks and Bulls meet for Game 5 on Wednesday, which is the earliest end of the other round. The Celtics won't tip the second round until at least the weekend, depending on the other side of the bracket. That's a huge plus after a physical first-round series against the Nets. The Celtics outplayed the Nets by just 18 points in the four games. The extra days off will also benefit Williams as he recovers from meniscus surgery. "It was four very tough games," said Tatum.

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