JOSE MOURINHO celebrated Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner by sliding across the pitch on his knees.
City’s players were on their knees too — devastated that they had lost having taken the lead with just five minutes left.
It was an astonishing end to an astonishing opening Champions League game in which City had battled so hard to prevent themselves being completely overwhelmed.
Somehow they found themselves 2-1 in front when Aleksandar Kolarov squeezed in a free-kick.
It restored the advantage Roberto Mancini’s men had taken on 69 minutes thanks to Edin Dzeko’s opener — a strike which was soon cancelled out by Marcelo.
Real fans were streaming out of the stadium, resigned to another defeat to add to an awful start to the season which had seen them lose two and draw one of their opening four games in La Liga.
But Karim Benzema equalised on 87 minutes then Ronaldo sparked Mourinho’s wild celebrations, which Chelsea fans may have recognised.
Ronaldo’s shot in the 90th minute was not bad but, had Vincent Kompany stood firm, it would have hit him in the face.
Instead, the City skipper ducked out of the way and the ball dipped under the diving Joe Hart.
It was no more than Real deserved because they had 30 shots on goal — a third of them by Ronaldo — to City’s eight.
Mancini knew how important it was to make a good start in a group which also includes Ajax and Borussia Dortmund.
All four sides are champions of their respective countries and it will be no easy task for City to get through as one of the top two.
Last season, they racked up 10 points and still failed to qualify so they wanted at least a point here to give them a decent platform for the challenges ahead.
Mancini had likened his team to a Ferrari in pre-match but they could not get out of neutral during the first half.
There was no sign of Real being in disarray or any disgruntlement from Ronaldo, who has complained about not being loved enough by the Spanish club.
The former Manchester United winger had a personal duel with Hart in the early stages, twice cutting inside and unleashing shots which the England keeper saved by diving to his left.
City’s new signing Maicon, once a Champions League winner under Mourinho at Inter Milan, could not cope.
Maicon was destroyed by Tottenham’s Gareth Bale a couple of years ago and here he was given the runaround again by Ronaldo.
The Portuguese saw another shot deflected to Sami Khedira, whose loose ball over the bar left Ronaldo looking disgusted.
Five minutes before the break, Gonzalo Higuain should have scored when he stuck out a leg three yards out but could only divert Angel di Maria’s cross over.
Once again, Ronaldo did not look impressed.
It was more of the same after the break with City penned in their own half. Yet unbelievably, despite all the pressure, City scored with 21 minutes left and Yaya Toure was the creator.
The Ivorian wrested the ball from Pepe in his own half and burst down the right. Sub Dzeko — brought on five minutes earlier for David Silva — peeled away and Toure’s pass into his run was perfect.
The Bosnian gave Iker Casillas the eyes, sent him the wrong way, then slotted a left-foot shot into the net.
Toure was an absolute beast and nearly got a sensational second only to hit the side-netting as he was challenged.
But the lead lasted just seven minutes before Marcelo — who had been narrowly off target from distance three times since half-time — found the target at last. He left Kompany for dead and hit a shot which deflected in off Javi Garcia, giving Hart no chance.
We expected City to try to hang on as Real pushed for a winner.
But when City won a free-kick five minutes from time, Kolarov’s curling delivery from the right found the corner.
They could not keep the lead though and sub Benzema turned Matija Nastasic on the edge of the area to fire low beyond Hart. The City keeper then made a flying save to deny Ronaldo and it seemed City had at least managed a draw.
But Ronaldo had the final word which broke City hearts.
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
STAR MAN – CRISTIANO RONALDO
REAL MADRID: Casillas 6, Arbeloa 6, Pepe 6, Varane 6, Marcelo 7, Khedira 6, Essien 7, Alonso 8, Di Maria 7, Ronaldo 8, Higuain 7. Subs: Ozil (Essien 64) 6; Benzema (Higuain 72) 7; Modric (Khedira 72) 6. Not used: Adan, Ramos, Coentrao, Kaka.
MAN CITY: Hart 7, Maicon 5, Kompany 5, Nastasic 5, Clichy 6, Y Toure 8, Barry 6, Garcia 6, Silva 6, Nasri 5, Tevez 6. Subs: Kolarov (Nasri 36) 5; Dzeko (Silva 63) 7; Zabaleta (Maicon 73) 6. Not used: Pantilimon, Lescott, Aguero, Rodwell. Booked: Garcia, Kompany, Dzeko.