Pep Guardiola has the opportunity to end his long wait for success at this elated level and strengthen his reputation as the best coach of his generation, which had been dented and damaged by the quarter-final failures of recent years. Having cleared that hurdle they have now taken another step forward, Riyad Mahrez’s brace leading them to a final where either Chelsea or Real Madrid will be waiting for them.
It could be the crowning achievement of one of the most funded and successful projects in the history of European football. Another is still waiting to taste this ultimate success. Paris Saint-Germain, losing finalists a year ago, were unable to reverse their home defeat to a single-goal deficit in last week’s first leg, with their hopes of doing so hampered by the isolation of Kylian Mbappe on the bench.
PSG’s away victories against Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the previous two rounds have associated this second leg with a turnaround potential, as has the history of their coach on this pitch in the round of 16 of this competition, but City avoided suffering another agony at the hands of Mauricio Pochettino. Instead, their visitors suffered the ignominy of an all-out 4-1 defeat and yet another expulsion, with Angel Di Maria seeing red.
Last week’s first leg and second half in Paris provided City with two away goals, a slim advantage and a platform to build on, even though they didn’t kill the draw. facing 10 men after Idrissa Gueye’s dismissal. Mbappé’s absence helped him, nonetheless, with a calf problem resumed in the weekend’s win over Lens keeping him out of the starting lineup.
A harsh and nearly horizontal hail from Manchester dusted Etihad’s pitch with a white coating in the hours leading up to kick-off, but even though officials were forced to conduct a brief pitch inspection, he There was very little chance that this town would have a second. game canceled promptly within two days.
Still, conditions made the first stages difficult for both teams and City survived an early scare when Abdou Diallo’s unpredictable cross struck Oleksandar Zinchenko in the arm, according to referee Bjorn Kuipers. The city bench begged to defer, insisting it hit his shoulder and demanding an examination. One glance at the field monitor and they were saved.
If Kuipers’ initially obviously incorrect decision had been upheld and the penalty converted after just six minutes, it would have been the game, Mbappé or not Mbappé. Instead, City tightened their grip on the tie. Mahrez, the decisive free-kick scorer in Paris, applied the finish from a narrow angle but in keeping with Guardiola’s unique methods, that goal was all about the goalkeeper.
A low cross at the edge of the box allowed De Bruyne to score a shot that was blocked, but the rebound fell nicely for Mahrez, who beat Presnel Kimpembe on stray ball, shot between the legs of Keylor Navas and has found the far corner. PSG had always needed to score twice but now that would only be enough to force extra time. Only 101 minutes of the tie had passed but City were firmly in control.
An answer was inevitable. The first goal of last week’s first leg will have momentarily shone in front of Guardiola’s eyes as Marquinhos climbed the highest to meet a deep cross, but the PSG captain hit the crossbar on the occasion. Apart from that, City’s last line of defense coped admirably with an attack that passed the midfield pair of Gundogan and Fernandinho too easily in the first half.
Particularly impressive were Zinchenko, John Stones and Ruben Dias, throwing themselves past PSG’s attempts to reassert themselves on both sides of the whistle at half-time. A heroic block from Zinchenko after Neymar’s mazy dribble across the lines prompted the three to celebrate as if they had scored a goal. They knew that as long as they stood firm, PSG’s desperation for a goal would open up space on the break and opportunities would arise.
When he came, Mahrez took him. It was a stunning counterattack, the kind that City rarely manage to execute given their dominance in possession, but they didn’t look out of practice. Having started in their own half, Kevin De Bruyne gave the ball to Foden. A dribble and another double brought them to the edge of the penalty area, streets past the retreating PSG defense, which had ignored Mahrez’s free kick at the far post. Foden chose it for the simple finish.
As with the first leg, Pochettino’s players started to lose their temper now that the fight had turned resolutely against them. Di Maria cost himself a possible appearance in the final but in truth any prospect of that was long gone. His imprint on Fernandinho as the City midfielder recovered the ball for a throw-in was extremely irritating and spoke of a team losing their lead.
Maybe all that City lacked was a defining moment. Foden, their boy wonders, thought he was about to provide it when his shot from the edge of the zone at the break beat Navas but, alas, he hit the base of the far post. It would have been the perfect moment to close a historic evening in the history of the club, their biggest European competition outside of the 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup victory. But of course, after that famous victory, their biggest night of all may be around the corner.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko, Silva, Fernandinho, Gundogan, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden.
Substitutes: Ake, Sterling, Jesus, Aguero, Steffen, Laporte, Rodri, Torres, Mendy, Cancelo, Carson.
Paris Saint-Germain: Navas, Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Diallo, Herrera, Paredes, Di Maria, Verratti, Neymar, Icardi.
Suppliers: Kehrer, Mbappe, Rafinha, Pereira, Rico, Kean, Sarabia, Kurzawa, Draxler, Bakker, Dagba, Randriamamy.