Cristiano Ronaldo failed to make the most of his opportunities for 90 minutes on Tuesday, but he came up huge in stoppage time, netting a winner for Real Madrid in their massive Champions League matchup with Manchester City.
The Citizens held the home side scoreless throughout the first half, then confused them with a change of formation that was partially necessitated by an injury, but likely a tactical decision by Roberto Mancini as well. City did well to take the lead on two occasions, but Madrid broke down the visitors' defense twice in the closing minutes and rallied back for a 3-2 victory.
Ronaldo regularly beat Maicon down Madrid's left throughout the first half, while opposite side winger Angel di Maria looked dangerous as well, but Madrid failed to find a breakthrough in the first half. Vincent Kompany made a couple of great late tackles, while Joe Hart looked very sharp in goal.
Samir Nasri picked up a hamstring injury in the first half, and Mancini brought on Aleksandar Kolarov, hardly a like-for-like switch. The move led to a formation change, with Gael Clichy coming inside and City switching to three at the back. They further switched up their formation in the 63rd minute, when Edin Dzeko entered for David Silva.
In the 69th minute, that substitution paid off. Yaya Toure provided an absolutely brilliant setup for Dzeko with a powerful run down the center after Madrid lost the ball in City's half. He played a perfect pass into the path of Dzeko on the counter, and the big center forward applied a composed finish to put City ahead.
The goal was a wake-up call for Madrid, who began to play with more urgency. They brought on Mesut Özil shortly before the goal, and made two more attacking changes after the goal by bringing in Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.
Los Merengues found their equalizer through Marcelo in the 76th minute. The goal had been coming for quite some time, and it was a well deserved one for Marcelo, who had an excellent game down Madrid's left. His strike from the edge of the box took a deflection that created an unstoppable shot for Hart, but it was an excellent shot nonetheless, and he might have scored even if his shot never took that deflection.
Madrid continued to press for a winner, and a City goal seemed a bit out of the question until they won a free kick in the 86th minute. Kolarov stepped up and delivered a sharp curling ball to the back post that was a bit of a half-shot, half-cross. No one got on the end of his ball, but it curled perfectly to allude Iker Casillas, then bounce into the back of the net to give the Citizens a shock lead.
Unfortunately for the visitors, there would be no famous upset. Just one minute after Kolarov's goal, Benzema netted an equalizer, turning in an assist by Di Maria. Both sides fought for the winner during an incredible back-and-forth period of three minutes, but City's aggression came back to bite them.
Following a counter, they left themselves exposed at the back. Ronaldo took advantage of space that wouldn't have been there if City were playing for the draw, cut inside, and delivered a finish to the back post from 12 yards in the first minute of stoppage time. Hart got his hand to it and could have made a save, but he was screened by Kompany and reacted to the shot late.
Madrid didn't look much better than they did in a loss over the weekend, but they found a way to net three goals and take a crucial three points from Manchester City. The Citizens couldn't have expected points at the Bernabeu, but they'll be extremely disappointed at how they lost what would have been a stranglehold on their group in a span of just four minutes.
For more on the Merengues, head over to Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid. For more on the Citizens, check out Manchester City blog Bitter and Blue. You can find our previous coverage of the game in our Real Madrid vs. Manchester City StoryStream. For more on the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.