Few would have predicted a goalfest having read the starting line-ups, considering that both coaches selected very cautious midfield trios. The Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was always likely to use Yaya Touré at the head of his midfield triangle, but it was a surprise to see José Mourinho select Michael Essien rather than Luka Modric or Mesut Ozil.

City started very narrow, with both Samir Nasri and David Silva moving inside from the flanks, but the extra numbers in the centre of midfield did not lead to significant spells of possession. Real's pressing meant that Mancini's side gave the ball away cheaply – a couple of times Joe Hart resorted to long balls towards Carlos Tevez, who was never likely to win aerial duels against Pepe and Raphaël Varane.

City's narrowness meant the Real full-backs, Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo, were constantly free and always available for a pass, and their overlapping runs were encouraged by the movement of Real's wingers: Di María drifted inside and played passes over the top to Gonzalo Higuaín, while Ronaldo often shot with his right foot. His battle with Maicon was a key feature – the Brazilian full-back pushed high up the pitch, but left Ronaldo free to pick up the ball on the run, forcing Hart into a couple of fine stops.

With City's passing poor, Touré struggled to get into the game in the early stages, but he looked City's best chance of turning defence into attack with a couple of powerful bursts through the middle, past Xabi Alonso, towards the end of the first half.

Aleksandar Kolarov's introduction for the injured Samir Nasri changed City's shape, giving City more width down the left.

By the second half they were playing a hybrid system, a cross between their starting 4–5–1 and a 3–5–1–1, with Maicon and Kolarov giving width on either side, and Gaël Clichy playing as part-full-back, part-centre-back. Silva then moved inside from the right to become a central playmaker.

Mancini's decision to introduce Edin Dzeko for Silva worked almost immediately – Real no longer had a spare man in defence, and Pepe found himself dragged out of position by Tevez for Dzeko's goal, which came after one of Touré's surges through the middle.

But City were astonishingly weak down their right, especially after Pablo Zabaleta replaced Maicon. As he ran on to the pitch, the Argentinian signalled that City were now playing three at the back, but while Clichy and Kolarov were defending well as a unit on the other flank, Zabaleta was forced to cover too much ground with little assistance, and often found himself wildly out of position.

By the end City's defence was shambolic, the players seemingly unsure of their roles. The danger repeatedly came down the same flank, and it was not obvious how City were trying to deal with it.

The natural man to assist Zabaleta was Vincent Kompany, but this resulted in Clichy and Matija Nastasic as an unnatural duo in the middle.

The frantic final 10 minutes were beyond any rational explanation – but with City so clearly undermanned down their right, it was absolutely no surprise that Marcelo and Ronaldo scored after cutting inside from that flank.