May 14, 2021

Sports Legend

Manchester City crush PSG to reach first Champions League final

Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal.
Image Credit: AP

Manchester City: Manchester City reached the Champions League final for the first time in club history as Riyad Mahrez’s brace beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 on Tuesday to seal an aggregate victory of 4- 1.

Mahrez’s goal also decided the first leg and the Algerian, who grew up in the Paris suburbs, once again haunted his native team with two clinical finishes at the start of each half.

The final in Istanbul on May 29 against Real Madrid or Chelsea is the culmination of City’s rise since a 2008 takeover of Abu Dhabi transformed the club’s fortunes.

Meanwhile, four years after making Neymar and Kylian Mbappe the two most expensive players in the world, PSG’s wait for a first Champions League title continues.

Mbappe was only able to watch from the stands due to a calf injury as, just like in last week’s first leg, his side imploded after a great performance in the first half.

The visitors were left behind with huge missed opportunities by Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria between Mahrez’s strikes before Di Maria went after Fernandinho to leave PSG at 10 men for the final 20 minutes.

City will seal a fifth Premier League title in the last 10 years in the coming days as they remain on track for a hat-trick, having already won the League Cup.

But it wasn’t until their 10th consecutive Champions League season that Sheikh Mansour’s investment was rewarded by participating in club football’s biggest game.

City boss Pep Guardiola has already won the Champions League twice as a coach during his time at Barcelona.

However, the Catalan has also endured a decade of angst in Europe’s premier club competition since.

Guardiola has fallen four times in the semi-finals with Barca and Bayern Munich since the last trophy lifting in 2011 after three quarter-finals with City in the past three seasons.

In many of those ties, small details and controversial decisions have gone against Guardiola’s men despite dominating the game.

This time it was a role reversal as City had to withstand a barrage from PSG before the break.

The French champions thought they had an early penalty to return to the draw when Oleksandr Zinchenko was penalized for handball.

However, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers rightly went back on his initial decision when he saw a catch of the ball bounce off the Ukrainian’s shoulder.

Zinchenko was heavily involved again when the first goal came on the other end.

He ran over the long thunderous pass from City goalkeeper Ederson into the PSG zone. Zinchenko’s cut-back found Kevin De Bruyne and after the Belgian’s shot was blocked, Mahrez jumped home on his weaker right foot.

The tie was still far from over as PSG brought City back and should have been at least tied the night before halftime.

Marquinhos got used to scoring big Champions League goals and the Brazilian was inches apart when his looped header came back from the crossbar.

Ederson then nearly undo his good job as Di Maria intercepted his rushed shot at Bernardo Silva and threw a shot a few inches wide with the Brazilian keeper stuck in front of his goal.

Neymar canceled

Mauricio Pochettino will wonder what could have been if Mbappe had been in good shape with his ineffective replacement Icardi.

Neymar has only shown flashes of his brilliance with City’s impressive defense led by Ruben Dias able to focus on stopping the Brazilian without Mbappe worrying.

City have now kept 31 clean sheets this season, which is in stark contrast to the defensive weakness that has cost them previously in this competition.

Guardiola’s men have always shown enough quality going forward and a clinical counterattack killed the game in the 63rd minute.

De Bruyne freed Phil Foden on the left and his perfect cross was blasted in front of Keylor Navas by Mahrez.

In a repeat of the first leg, the discipline of PSG accompanied its hopes of reaching the final.

Di Maria unnecessarily stamped Fernandinho only to be shown a red card before Marco Verratti had a chance to escape seeing a second yellow.

Foden hit the post as City threatened to start a riot in the playoffs.

But they had already done enough to make history.