The semi-final tie was perfectly balanced at 1-1 after the first leg at the Bernabeu, and the Etihad clash had been talked up, somewhat disrespectfully to Inter Milan, as effectively a final between the competition’s two favourites, with either fancied to get the better of the Serie A side on June 10.
Real need not worry about flights to Istanbul though, as they were blown away by a sensational first-half performance from City, with the two goals they scored the very least they deserved for the most one-sided of encounters. Bernardo Silva netted both, the first a left-footed strike and the second a looped header, as City ran the defending champions ragged.
The second-half was a more controlled affair, Real never really threatening a late charge and City keen to ensure there was no repeat of last season’s dramatic collapse, when Carlo Ancelotti’s side scored twice in stoppage-time on their way to a remarkable comeback.
That never looked on the cards though, Real a shadow of their usual European selves, and the tie was put to bed once and for all when Eder Militao turned the ball into his own net, before Julian Alvarez netted in stoppage-time to cap a truly miserable night for the visitors as City’s treble bid overcame what had been billed as the most significant remaining obstacle.
From the first minute City were camped in the Real half and things did not improve for the visitors at all in the 45 that followed, with Thibaut Courtois the only reason the defending champions were not on the receiving end of something more embarrassing.
The relentless City display was humbling enough though, with Erling Haaland denied from close range by Courtois before the Real goalkeeper produced a stunning save to somehow claw the Norwegian’s header beyond the far post.
It was delaying the inevitable though and within minutes City were in front, as Kevin De Bruyne slid a pass through to Silva and this time Courtois could do nothing as the left-footed finish was lashed beyond him, the hosts finally getting what their performance deserved.
Toni Kroos hammered a shot off the bar from distance but that was as good as it got for Real, who were otherwise run ragged in a manner they have not endured for many years. The second goal came before half-time, as Ilkay Gundogan had an effort saved but Silva was on hand to head home the rebound as the scoreline at least began to reflect the pattern of play.
The pressure was not quite as relentless after the break, City content to settle for what they had, but there were still chances to extend the lead further. Ilkay Gundogan played Haaland in, with the City striker finding Courtois in his way once again as the Belgian turned his effort onto the bar.
The finish that settled it for good came not through Haaland but instead Militao, as Manuel Akanji’s flicked header hit the Real defender and flew beyond the helpless Courtois, with Akanji’s celebrations not enough to convince those at UEFA headquarters it should go down as his goa.
There was still time for Alvarez to get in on the rout in the closing moments, finishing calmly after being played through by Phil Foden, leaving City with just one more step to climb in their bid for the one trophy they crave more than any other.