Kevin De Bruyne orchestrated a dramatic Manchester City comeback on Wednesday as they stunned Real Madrid 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu to put one foot in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Madrid looked on course to edge a cagey contest after Isco gave them the lead early in the second half, but De Bruyne teed up Gabriel Jesus to nod in the leveller in the 78th minute and then tucked away a penalty in the 83rd.
A pulsating finish also saw Sergio Ramos sent off for preventing Jesus from going clear and Madrid’s captain will now be banned for the second leg at the Etihad Stadium on March 17, when City’s two away goals will make them heavy favourites to go through.
Guardiola sprung another Champions League surprise by picking a line-up nobody predicted, with De Bruyne up front and Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho all on the bench.
But his gamble paid off handsomely, even if Nicolas Otamendi made the mistake that led to Isco’s opener while an injury to Aymeric Laporte meant Fernandinho had to be introduced midway through the first half.
Guardiola insisted on Tuesday that Uefa’s two-year ban, pending City’s appeal, would not act as a spur for his players but it was very much on the minds of their travelling fans, who were singing against European football’s governing body from almost the first minute.
Either way, City now have a golden opportunity to make a statement by knocking out Real Madrid, the competition’s most successful club.
Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo drew a blank as a Lucas Tousart goal handed Lyon a surprise 1-0 win over Juventus in their first leg encounter in France on Wednesday.
Midfielder Tousart netted from close range in the 31st minute to give Lyon a lead to defend when they head to Turin for the return on March 17.
The goal came with Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt off receiving treatment, but it was just reward for an excellent first-half performance by a Lyon side enduring a mediocre campaign in Ligue 1.
They then survived late Juventus pressure to claim their finest European result since defeating Manchester City in last season’s group stage.