Rio Ferdinand says Thibaut Courtois’ weakness with the ball at his feet played a key part in Real Madrid’s Champions League exit to Manchester City.
Real had it all to do after losing the first leg of the last-16 clash 2-1 in Madrid. But they shot themselves in the foot with two defensive errors in the return.
That allowed City to progress to the quarter-finals 4-2 on aggregate after a second 2-1 win thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus.
Ferdinand said later Real were the architects of their own downfall. And he singled out former Chelsea goalkeeper Courtois as one of the big culprits.
Madrid insisted on playing out from the back but the Belgian stopper looked uncomfortable doing so. And that flaw led to City’s opener after just nine minutes.
Courtois gave Raphael Varane the ball in an awkward area and when the defender dallied, Jesus nipped in ahead of him. The Brazilian squared the ball to Sterling and the England man slotted home.
He takes a good touch to be fair, Courtois,” Ferdinand said on BT Sport.
“[But] play forward, all this playing sideways and back.
“And Varane, dilly-dallies on the ball, his first touch was under his feet so he had to take another one, he was closed down brilliantly by Jesus.
“It was a great goal from Man City’s perspective but something that could have easily been avoided if they just played a little bit more direct at times. That’s been their own fault.
“But Courtois, we’ve seen him for many years at Chelsea etc. His footwork has always been something that has been questionable and today there’s more evidence than ever.”
Former Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott also questioned Real’s tactics when Courtois wasn’t fully comfortable.
Lescott said: “They didn’t seem to know what they were doing when they were playing out from the back. There was no purpose.
“It was quite slow and timid and Courtois here, he doesn’t have an idea and he gives Varane a sloppy ball.
“But Varane’s got to know better than to take a touch inside.”
Praise for Benzema
Madrid had been given hope by Karim Benzema’s 28th-minute equaliser.
The striker’s excellent header made it 1-1 on the night and put Real just a goal away from squaring the tie at 3-3.
City had other ideas but Benzema’s class at this level didn’t go unnoticed. The Frenchman has now scored five goals in his last six appearances in the knockout stages.
Ferdinand said: “This guy has had a sustained amount of success at the top level and he does everything.
“He can put people in, he set up Cristiano [Ronaldo] more than any other player in the time Cristiano was at that club.
“He can be the provider but this guy, when the chances come his way, he finishes.
“I think he’s actually a really complete striker and he can do a bit of everything in the game, I think he’s a fantastic player.”