Manchester City celebrate Riyad Mahrez’s second goal against PSG
For the first time since their quest to win the Champions League began, Manchester City finally look ready to win Europe’s top title.
A magnificent Riyad Mahrez brace saw City win the second leg 2-0 on the night, making for a comfortable 4-1 aggregate victory over PSG – a side whose long wait for Champions League glory themselves goes on.
For all the attacking brilliance of Pep Guardiola’s side, it was their defensive solidity that gained plaudits on Tuesday night. Ruben Dias’ commitment to blocking shots however he could went alongside brave efforts from John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko, while Kyle Walker ensured Neymar couldn’t get involved at all.
It was a structure put together with the aim to frustrate, and the usual heads gone attitude of PSG as the game entered its final third demonstrated how it had worked perfectly. They failed to have a shot on target, they struggled to create and Neymar, one of the very best dribblers in the world, was forced to an abrupt stop on virtually every attack.
For all the criticism Guardiola has attracted during his time at the club for their fortunes in this competition, the constant rotation and system changes as they hit the latter stages, tonight showed why his side can go on and lift the trophy at the end of May.
City were always favourites to win the tie, but the manner in which they did it will leave Chelsea or Real Madrid slightly worried about what they will face in Istanbul.
PSG, a team stacked with attacking talent, was left clueless as to how they would find a way through. The final ten minutes of the first-half resembled those of a team chasing a game in the 90th minute. Crosses into the box weren’t working and the centre of the pitch was completely blocked off.
They were without Kylian Mbappe, but the solid defensive structure of the hosts leave questions on what he could have actually done to change their fortunes. With such little room to operate in, his night would have likely gone the same way as the other 15 in navy.
PSG’s frustrations were summed up by Angel Di Maria’s straight red card for a stamp on Fernandinho. The 69th minute clash ended PSG’s hopes, if they weren’t over by then anyway, of reaching a second consecutive Champions League final.
That 20 minutes that followed Di Maria’s red were City flexing their attacking muscles. The fluid attacks that we are so used to seeing from this team, passages of play that once again left PSG stumped into how they would match it.
For two teams who are often seen on the same level, clubs with seemingly endless funds that have failed to lead them to European glory in the modern era, City demonstrated that they are well clear of the Parisians.
Whoever City face in the final, whether it be Real or an all-English encounter against Chelsea, they will be the favourites in the market. Regardless of what happens in domestic leagues or cup competitions before the final on May 29, it will be difficult to argue against Guardiola’s side finally ending their wait.
The key Opta facts
- Manchester City are the ninth different English team to reach the European Cup/Champions League final; three more than any other nation (Germany and Italy – 6 sides).
- Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola ended a run of four consecutive UEFA Champions League semi-final eliminations, reaching the final for the first time since 2010-11 with Barcelona.
- Manchester City have won their last seven UEFA Champions League matches; the longest ever winning run by an English team in European Cup/Champions League history. Indeed, City are also the first English side to win 11 games in a single European Cup/Champions League campaign.