MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Real Madrid called on the experience of nearly 60 years of European competition which has brought them a record nine European Cups as they ushered Manchester City through the exit door of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Madrid boss Jose Mourinho, who was celebrating his 100th Champions League match as a coach, saw his team draw 1-1 to secure their place in the last 16 from Group D and leave his old Italian adversary Roberto Mancini ruing what might have been for his Champions League novices.
The only group to feature four national champions will end with Borussia Dortmund and Real advancing, and Ajax Amsterdam and City going either into the Europa League or out completely.
City were eliminated at the group stage for a second successive season and the gulf in class was obvious from the start as Real tore into a three-man home defence that struggled to cope with Cristiano Ronaldo’s runs and Angel Di Maria’s blistering pace on the right flank.
Real could have scored six times in the first 45 minutes against a high-value side playing in only their 11th Champions League match since their debut last season, but produced just one goal when Karim Benzema lost his defender Maicon, found himself unmarked and in space two metres out and fired home.
City were run ragged in the first half but improved in the second after Mancini switched from a 3-5-2 formation to a more orthodox 4-4-2 with Javi Garcia creating some momentum which wingbacks Alekxandar Kolarov and Maicon had failed to do in the one-sided opening period.
They also looked livelier when Carlos Tevez joined the fray with half an hour to play and deservedly got a goal back when former Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero sent his penalty past Casillas with 17 minutes left after Alvaro Arbeloa had been sent off for a foul on the Argentine.
Aguero should have done better when he fired straight at Casillas from point-blank range in the 65th minute. That summed up City’s night: they were good in patches but just not good enough to get the better of Real.
Mancini, asked why he had changed formation, said: “I thought with three at the back Kolarov and Maicon would be good for us but instead we conceded a goal and left them a lot of space to counter-attack.”
City had to win this match and their remaining game in Dortmund to have any chance of qualifying but that was always a long shot and never really looked likely once Real took an early grip.
Real were solid at the back, even after the sending-off and Mourinho was pleased they had come through the game so well.
“It was mission accomplished” he told reporters. “We achieved our aim of going through.”
Former Manchester United favourite Ronaldo, playing back in the city for the first time since he left three years ago, was booed every time he touched the ball but had the last laugh as City went out.
Real’s only disappointment might be qualifying as runners-up in the group after Dortmund grabbed top spot with a 4-1 win at Ajax.
“We wanted to fight for first place but it was not to be but the important thing is that we are through,” Casillas said in an interview with Spanish TV.
“We missed a few chances to end the match as a contest in the first half but the truth is we were up against a great team.”
Real created a series of good early scoring chances and Ronaldo should have doubled the lead after 15 minutes when he broke free and lobbed goalkeeper Joe Hart but saw the ball cleared off the line. When it came back to him he curled it just wide.
Defensive midfielder Sami Khedira had three opportunities to score and Benzema another one, while City, dominating possession somewhat aimlessly in midfield, never seriously troubled Casillas before the break.
“We’ve had a few opportunities in this group where we could have done a lot better,” Hart told Sky Sports television.
“All the games have cost us - we’ve lost our two away games and not won at home. We led in Amsterdam and we led in Madrid so it’s been a bad campaign for us.”
City may get a chance of success in the Europa League if they win in Dortmund and Real beat Ajax. For Real, a long-awaited 10th European Cup, and a third for Mourinho after successes with Porto and Inter, remains a real possibility. (Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Clare Fallon)