Champions League glory in sight for Pep
Man City reach first-ever final – as they win 4-1 overall against PSG
As it happened:
Thanks to some inclement weather conditions, the Etihad turf was covered in snow for this Champions League semi-final, which Jermaine Jenas noted might be a factor that Man City would be more comfortable with than the PSG. Both teams took their time adjusting to the conditions, but each started with confidence.
With star-man Kylian Mbappe starting on the bench, it was always going to be a tough night for Paris Saint-Germain. Neymar saw a lot of ball from the start for the France team; exchanging passes with Verratti and Di Maria as they looked to break City’s defense.
Six minutes later there were screams for a penalty from PSG and the referee pointed to the spot. Upon examination, it was found that the ball had grazed Zinchenko’s shoulder and the referee, Björn Kuipers, overturned the decision. Just four minutes later, Riyad Mahrez scored his second goal on both legs. Nice long balloon from Ederson finds Zinchenko on the left wing, and after a blocked shot from De Bruyne, Mahrez placed him in the far corner to give the hosts the first lead.
The action continued to come dense and fast as Marquinhos hit the crossbar with a looping header; he would have hoped to reproduce his head from the first leg. Moments later, Man City were almost caught off guard when Di Maria took advantage of a mistake and completed his shot just outside the open net from 25 yards; miss a chance that a player of his caliber is supposed to score.
The action slowed down as we neared the half hour mark, with De Bruyne taking his chances from a distance but watching it curl past the upper right corner. The teams traded possession as PSG looked to get back into the tie – with Di Maria and Neymar at the center of their attacks. The Parisian struggled to create many clear chances, with their next coming in the 35th minute when ex-Manchester United player Ander Herrera sent a well-struck shot over the crossbar. Hoping for a goal before half-time, PSG threw the players forward, however, Man City’s defense lived up to their advances – Reuben Dias being particularly effective. He remained 1-0 after the first 45 minutes, and PSG would need a monumental effort to reverse the deficit.
As the second half began, PSG knew they had to move forward from the start; it was up to them to continue the game. It appeared that they were getting more and more frustrated as Man City’s free kicks started to pile up, and in turn City were getting more aggressive as well. Whether it was Verratti, Neymar or Di Maria who were pushing the action; City’s well-trained and focused defense was there to thwart any advance.
With PSG pushing everyone forward, Man City were able to capitalize and break away from Foden, who missed but was offside anyway. Moments later, Keylor Navas, three-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, shot Foden from a distance. The pace started to pick up and a meteoric run from Neymar resulted in his shot being brilliantly blocked by Zinchenko – whom City celebrated as a vital goal.
As PSG’s frustrations increased with Neymar having little room to function, a volley from Herrera was bravely blocked by Reuben Dias – again. Both Moise Kean and Julian Draxler stepped in as the Parisians tried to change gears, however, City immediately broke away again with the pace and Riyad Mahrez was able to score his second fullback. Mahrez continued his scintillating form into the knockout stage, having now scored 4 goals and 2 assists in City’s last five knockout games.
PSG refused to be deterred, and Draxler managed to create some space but again saw his shot blocked by Dias – as he asserted himself as a possible man of the match. With 20 minutes remaining and the frustrations clearly growing, Angel Di Maria sent off Fernandinho and gave the referee no chance but to send him off. The chances of the France team disappeared before their eyes, and they seriously risked passing to 9 men. As the game drew to a close, Phil Foden came very close to going 3-0 with a left-footed strike that hit the post, as City continued to attack until the final whistle. Reckless challenges were arriving from PSG – with a few of their players lucky not to join Di Maria for a morning swim.
Final score: Man City 2 against 0 PSG (4-1 in total)
Man City looked great tonight. They attacked with rhythm and defended with solidarity, and PSG had no answer for their quality. Foden, Dias and Mahrez were all excellent and deserved the applause of Man of the Match. Guardiola will look forward to the final as he seeks to clinch the third Champions League medal.
We are now awaiting Real Madrid’s result against Chelsea to see who City will face in the final.