MANCHESTER, ENGLAND: Riyad Mahrez struck twice as Manchester City reached the Champions League final for the first time thanks to a 2-0 win over Paris St Germain at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday that ensured an aggregate victory of 4-1.
City dominated their French opponents, who lost their lead in the second half and finished the semi-final second-half with 10 men after Angel Di Maria was sent off in the 69th minute for an impromptu stamp on Fernandinho.
Pep Guardiola’s City side will now face the winner of Wednesday’s final match between Chelsea and Real Madrid in the May 29 final in Istanbul.
Guardiola, who has won the competition twice with Barcelona, waited 10 years to return to the final and had no doubts about the extent of his side’s success, with City having won all six of the round of 16 games.
“People think it’s easy to get to the Champions League final. Getting to the final now makes sense of what we’ve been doing for the past four or five years. Every day these guys have been consistent and it’s remarkable, ”he said. .
“It’s for all of us and for the club. I’m incredibly proud,” added the Spaniard.
Mahrez put City in the lead on the night in the 11th minute and then completed a superb counterattack in the 63rd to secure their place in the final.
PSG sorely missed their talented striker Kylian Mbappe who, still struggling with a calf injury, was forced to watch the game from the bench.
A hailstorm and pre-match downpour created a tricky surface and City got an early scare when Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers pointed out the spot after the PSG players called for handball.
Still, a VAR examination showed the ball had legally bounced off the top of the shoulder of city back Oleksandr Zinchenko and the penalty was overturned.
Nerves were thrown in the 11th minute when Zinchenko ran on a long ball from goalkeeper Ederson on the left flank, found Kevin De Bruyne inside and the Belgian’s blocked shot fell on Mahrez in the box which did not did not make a mistake with his arrival.
Still, the goal didn’t do much to settle City at the back and the visitors could have leveled five minutes later when Marquinhos directed a Di Maria cross against the bar from close range.
City nearly destroyed themselves when Ederson, from the edge of his box, threw the ball at Bernardo Silva which was stolen by Di Maria, but with the city’s goalkeeper unguarded, the Argentine failed managed to find the target.
PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas did well to stay clear of Mahrez just before the break and Costa Rica were called up quickly after the restart to deal with an effort from Phil Foden from the left.
Without Mbappe, Neymar was rarely a danger, floating deep as he searched for the ball, but he opened up City’s defense with a solo run in the 56th minute before his shot from inside the box was blocked. by Zinchenko.
City put the tie past the French side in the 63rd minute with a classic counterattack, as Foden broke out to the left and, after a quick rally with De Bruyne, chose Mahrez at the back post who went sneaked at point blank range.
Frustration spread for Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG side and Di Maria was sent off after an irritable spit with Fernandinho after the ball came out for a throw-in.
From there, it was just a question of whether City would add to the pain and the impressive Foden came close with a low drive that cut the post.
City supporters locked outside the stadium, feted wildly with blaring car horns, but for PSG, beaten by Bayern Munich in the final last season, it was another disappointing year.
“We played with character. We have to believe in ourselves, we will succeed,” said midfielder Marco Verratti. –Reuters