Madrid lynchpin Rudiger decisive against Man City

Antonio Rudiger put Real Madrid into the Champions League semi-finals, not only by scoring the winning penalty against Manchester City on Wednesday but also by keeping Erling Haaland quiet across the tie.

The German defender’s two strong displays against City’s Norwegian hitman helped Madrid hold their own across 210 minutes of thrilling quarter-final action, ending in a 4-4 aggregate draw before the shoot-out.

After Luka Modric missed for Madrid and their goalkeeper Andriy Lunin denied Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic, Rudiger completed the 4-3 penalty triumph over the reigning champions.

The centre-back strolled calmly up to the penalty spot and drilled a low effort in off the post, beating Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson even though he dived the right way.

Rudiger, who joined from Chelsea in 2022, is one of the few players in Madrid’s squad yet to win the Champions League with Los Blancos, but he did lift it in 2021 with the Blues.

With David Alaba and Eder Militao out injured for long stretches of the campaign, Rudiger has established himself as an essential figure at the back for Madrid.

That was made evident over the two legs against Manchester City, in which the 31-year-old stopped Haaland from adding to his 31 goals across all competitions.

After Rodrygo’s early goal, City dominated but Madrid’s defence, marshalled by Rudiger and captain Nacho Fernandez, stayed afloat.

“I like when I see a team that sacrifices and fights so much,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti.

“Winning here can only be achieved in this way.”

Before the tie Rudiger said he took his battle with Haaland as something “personal”.

The defender excelled last season in the 1-1 semi-final first leg draw with City at the Santiago Bernabeu.

However Ancelotti dropped him for the second leg and Madrid were hammered 4-0 by Pep Guardiola’s rampant side, who went on to win the trophy for the first time.

Ancelotti accepted his mistake and confirmed on Tuesday Rudiger would be starting against City at the Etihad Stadium this time.

Madrid’s defensive display showed the Italian had made the correct call — not that they had many other options with Aurelien Tchouameni out injured and Militao only fit for a few minutes off the bench.

With the defence so stretched this season it made their resistance against the English treble-winners all the more impressive.

“We showed another side of ourselves, we defended spectacularly,” Madrid defender Nacho told Movistar.

“We fought until the end, this team has so much pride.”

Rudiger’s only blot on his copybook on a nearly flawless night was his involvement in Manchester City’s equaliser.

The defender blocked Jeremy Doku’s cross at the near post but the loose ball fell to Kevin de Bruyne who blasted home to force extra-time.

Rudiger came inches away from deciding the game in the additional period, slashing a shot narrowly wide of Ederson’s near post.

The defender did not have to wait much longer to beat the Brazilian goalkeeper.

Not only did Rudiger decisively score his own penalty but first he helped Lunin stop his former Chelsea team-mate Kovacic’s spot-kick, signalling the direction the Ukrainian should dive to stop the Croatian midfielder’s effort.

Madrid will face Bayern Munich in the semi-finals and after shackling Haaland, Rudiger will fancy his chances of doing the same to old Tottenham rival Harry Kane.


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