Mahrez leads City to Istanbul
After a decade of disappointment, Pep Guardiola is back in a Champions League final and just one game away from delivering on his task to make Manchester City champions of Europe for the first time.
In the battle between two clubs with seemingly endless resources but no Champions League titles to their name, City kept their cool to beat Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 on aggregate as the French champions paid for losing their heads in both legs of the semi-final tie.
Riyad Mahrez, born and raised in Paris, scored twice to secure a 2-0 win for City in Tuesday’s second leg before Angel di Maria’s red card for lashing out at Fernandinho rounded off another miserable European exit for the French champions.
A first Champions League final for City, against Real Madrid or Chelsea in Istanbul, is the culmination of the club’s rise since an Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 transformed their fortunes.
In the coming days, they will seal a fifth Premier League title in the past 10 years.
Once dubbed the “noisy neighbours” by legendary former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, City are now not just the dominant force in Manchester but also in English football.
By the end of the month, the mix of Emirati wealth and Guardiola’s coaching may have also conquered Europe.
“Of course we invest a lot of money since Sheikh Mansour took over, but it is not just this,” said Guardiola. “It is a lot of incredible things behind the scenes.
“Reaching the final of the Champions League, helps us realise in the bigger picture what we have done in the last four years. What we have done these four years is incredible.”
Since a difficult first year in England, Guardiola has led City to four League Cups, an FA Cup and the brink of a third Premier League title in four seasons.
However, until now, that domestic success always came with the caveat of Champions League collapses.
Guardiola has won the competition twice before as a coach during his time at Barcelona, but not since 2011.
City did not even progress beyond the last eight in his first four seasons in charge.
It was a similar story for the Catalan in his three years at Bayern Munich between 2013 and 2016 as three Bundesliga titles were overshadowed by three semi-final exits to Spanish opposition.
“People believe because it happened in the past I have to arrive every year in the final of the Champions League,” added Guardiola. -AFP