By Suhas Bhat
In a thrilling game, Real were the deserving winners as they dominated the proceedings in the first half and held their nerve to twice come back from behind to win.
Edin Dzeko grabbed the opening goal after being put through by Yaya Toure during a quick counter-attack but City were immediately pegged back by Marcelo's sweet curler.
Aleksandar Kolarov, somewhat inadvertently, scored through a free-kick to make a shock victory seem all but certain until Karim Benzema's classy finish levelled things up once again.
This set the stage for star winger Cristiano Ronaldo to score in the 90th minute to ensure that Real continue their ongoing tradition of never losing their opening game in a European competition.
The surprise inclusion of Frenchman Varane proved costly as he couldn't properly mark City striker Dzeko nor close down the imposing Toure for the opening goal of the match. And goalkeeper Casillas' inability to clear a routine cross from a free-kick into the box led to the second goal and spoiled the home side's otherwise excellent defensive performance.
But some say that attack is the best form of defence and, in this manner, Marcelo stole the show through a wonderful long-range goal.
Iker Casillas - 6.5 | Alvaro Arbeloa - 7.5 | Raphael Varane - 6 | Pepe - 7 | Marcelo - 8
The fact that it was after Michael Essien's substitution that Toure managed to get free in order to make a trademark run leading to the first goal demonstrated the tactical and positional discipline demonstrated by the Real midfield. Moreover, Xabi Alonso's accurate distribution helped Real control the tempo while Angel di Maria's constant shots and crosses pushed City into a defensive mindset throughout the game.
The absence in the starting XI of the creative talents of brilliant midfielders such as Luka Modric and Mesut Ozil was strange at first but it also meant that Real rarely gave the ball away.
Essien (Off 65') - 7.5 | Alonso - 8 | Di Maria - 8.5 | Khedira (Off 74') - 8
Gonzalo Higuain played in the conventional attacker role but failed to capitalise on the several opportunities carved out for him and did not demonstrate the intent to dribble with the ball or try and take the game to the opposition. And Ronaldo, playing once more as an inside forward, easily outpaced Maicon but found Vincent Kompany ever-ready to stop him in his tracks. The Portuguese star made amends right at the death, however, as a sublime piece of skill led to a 90th-minute goal and he celebrated the feat with much gusto, delighting the fans in attendance on the night.
Ronaldo - 8.5 | Higuain (Off 74') - 6.5
Bringing on Ozil proved pivotal as the Real midfielders were not making the necessary runs into the box. And Benzema's introduction proved the catalyst for the win as the Frenchman, unlike Higuain who was in goal-poacher mode, willingly and effectively contributed to Madrid's build-up play.
Ozil (On 65') - 7 | Benzema (On 74') - 8 | Modric (On 74') - 7
City reverted a 4-4-2 in order to better deal with the threat of Ronaldo and Di Maria down the flanks and it seemed to pay off as Maicon and Clichy did not allow the duo to cut inside with any regularity while captain Kompany stepped in to help out whenever his fellow defenders seemed to be overwhelmed. However, 19-year-old Nastasić's lack of experience was exploited by the Real attackers as the Serbian did not always mark Higuain or Benzema properly leading to a number of nervy moments for the City defence.
Only a focused display by Hart in the first half helped keep the scoreline level at half-time but the England keeper could do nothing about the three Real goals as they were the products of sheer individual brilliance.
Hart - 7| Maicon (Off 74') - 6.5 | Kompany - 7.5 | Nastasić - 6 | Clichy - 6
A determined display by Toure helped prevent the City midfield from capitulating under the strain of Real's dominance as he consistently won back possession for his team and took it upon himself to take the ball up the field and help release his team-mates in the box. The rest of the City midfield, on the other hand, were situated either too far forward, as in the case of David Silva, or were camped inside their own half.
Toure - 8 | Garcia - 7 | Silva (Off 62') - 6 | Nasri (Off 36') - 6 | Barry - 6
Carlos Tevez was starved of support up front but he made his job even more difficult as his lack of composure prevented him from holding the ball for any length of time and therefore City were unable to properly make the transition from defence to attack.
Tevez - 6
The introduction of Kolarov was a poor decision as the Serbian rarely sent in good crosses from the left wing. He was lucky to score through his free-kick. On the other hand, Dzeko did manage to make more of an impact on the game aside from purely a goal scoring stand point.
Dzeko (On 62') - 8 | Kolarov (On 36') - 7.5 | Zabaleta (On 74') - 7