Real Madrid's dramatic Champions League victory last night may have come against limited opponents – "a timid Manchester City, for whom only Yaya Touré shined", was Marca's summary of the visitors – but it was nevertheless ranked as "one of their best nights".
After a difficult start to their league campaign – Madrid have won only one of their first four games and are 12th in the league – the performance was seen as a return to form for José Mourinho's side, with the Madrid-based paper AS acclaiming one of the greatest matches in the club's history and El Pais savouring "one of those great European Cup nights with which Real Madrid has forged its legend".
"Europe is the solution!" AS screamed. "Disjointed and behind in the league, and lost in confusion, Madrid were revived in one of those European nights that happens from time to time, and that fans will treasure in their memory forever. Despite twice falling behind undeservedly, they threw off the looming crisis and eventually won 3-2. The match was a beautiful and unforgettable spectacle."
Marca speculated that the game was "perhaps the first appearance of a new Madrid". "If Mourinho was looking for a more committed team, he found it. At the beginning as at the end," they wrote. "Madrid's great success was in immediately getting back up off the canvas [after Kolarov put City 2-1 up], thanks to a goal from Benzema. As City tired their defence left small spaces where before there was concrete, which led to the third. It was nowhere near Ronaldo's best shot of the night, but it provoked delirium in the scorer, the team, the Bernabéu and Mourinho, who celebrated by sliding on his knees across the grass. Anyone who thinks that reaction was exaggerated did not see this match. Big mistake."
All the Spanish papers make much of this moment of delirium, which El Pais calls "blessed madness". El Mundo Deportivo wrote that Mourinho "knew he could not lose". "Real Madrid did not stop with Benzema's equaliser, and desperately sought a victory which came with a goal from Ronaldo, who 'ate' Joe Hart. The 3-2 was celebrated by the Portuguese, unleashed euphoria in the Bernabéu and gave Mourinho, who at the time seemed to have a rope tied around his neck, a little more air."
Despite the victory, though, fans were divided as to whether Mourinho's team selection had been successful. The Portuguese coach replaced Mezut Ozil with the less creative Michael Essien and Sergio Ramos with Raphael Varane in the starting line-up, though Ozil played the final half-hour as a substitute. In an only survey only 53% of AS's readers considered the changes a success.