Playing in their first European semi-final for 45 years, English Premier League club City produced a cagey first-leg display that offered little menace, although crucially they denied Real an away goal.
Ten-time champions Real suffered a setback before kickoff when Cristiano Ronaldo, the leading scorer in this season’s competition with 16 goals, was ruled out with a thigh injury.
His spark was badly missed in a turgid first half at City’s Etihad Stadium, but Real finally came alive after the break and the hosts needed two instinctive late saves from Hart to keep them in the hunt for the second leg at the Bernabeu next week.
“It’s too close to call at the moment,” City captain Vincent Kompany said. “We couldn’t have wished for more. We have 90 minutes left and we’ll look forward to next week.”
Neither side managed a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes, but Real gradually upped their tempo after the break with Gareth Bale increasingly influential.
The Welshman curled one effort wide and had a penalty appeal turned down before substitute Jese looped a header against the crossbar with Hart at full stretch.
Hart saved a Casemiro header with his left foot and then shortly after Pepe looked certain to break the deadlock from point-blank range but Hart blocked the shot with his chest.
City striker Sergio Aguero had a quiet night and their creative department was not helped when David Silva limped off with a hamstring injury after 40 minutes. Manager Manuel Pellegrini said he was unlikely to be fit for the return.
The hosts did produce a late flurry after Raheem Sterling joined the fray from the bench, before Kevin De Bruyne’s inswinging free kick forced Keylor Navas into action.
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