- Benjamin Wolfe
Istanbul, Istanbul, we are coming! Mahrez sends City to final - Manchester City 2-0 (4-1) PSG Review
Yes, little old Manchester City have reached a Champions League final. For the first time in their history, they will challenge for the most prestigious honour in club football. Two goals from Riyad Mahrez sealed the deal. City fans and players celebrated wildly. The dream is on.
Pep Guardiola selected a team many of us would have expected. Thankfully there were no crazy system changes or random player positions. Ederson started in goal with John Stones and Ruben Dias ahead of him. Kyle Walker started at right-back with Zinchenko on the other side. Fernandinho started ahead of Rodri, with Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan alongside him. Kevin De Bruyne took up his now-familiar false nine position with Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez flanking him.
Manchester City were handed a slight boost to their chances with Kylian Mbappe only being able to make the bench for tonight’s game. Still, though, it was by no means easy especially considering the amount of ice and snow covering the playing surface at the Etihad. The grounds staff did their best to clear it. PSG were an aggressive and dangerous side, in the first half particularly and their press was causing City to lose possession more than normal.
It took only five minutes for John Stones to be called into action with a block against a Neymar shot. One of many blocks performed by City’s heroic backline as the night progressed. PSG attacked with everything they had, chasing down that deficit in the scoreline, and were awarded a penalty in the 8th minute. The ball clearly hit Zinchenko on the shoulder however and VAR quickly corrected the error.
In the 11th minute, City struck first. A brilliantly executed ball from Ederson sprung Zinchenko from the halfway line. A goalkeeper should not even be allowed to attempt such passes but Ederson is no normal goalkeeper. Zinchenko drove towards the PSG box before pulling the ball back to Kevin De Bruyne. His shot was blocked but the ball fell to Riyad Mahrez whose right-footed strike found the net. City were one step closer to Istanbul.
Riyad Mahrez opened the scoring!
PSG still needed those goals however and continued to press and attack, forcing City back into a defensive shape. This was fine for John Stones, Ruben Dias, Zinchenko, and Kyle Walker, however. They all stood tall and relished every single battle they faced. I swear I have never cheered defensive actions so much.
An error between Ederson and Bernardo Silva allowed Angel Di Maria to take a free shot into an almost empty goal in the 19th minute but thankfully the effort went wide. A warning shot that almost stopped my heart.
Phil Foden pulled off a lovely, dinked ball into Kevin De Bruyne in the PSG box in the 28th minute. Alessandro Florenzi intercepted the ball at the very last second with a toe, saving his team.
City were still in the lead at the halfway mark, but PSG still very much in the tie. The ground staff had used the time they had to clear the rest of the pitch and the playing surface was much better for the second 45 minutes. It was still pouring down though, good Manchester weather.
PSG would spend the next 45 minutes losing their collective minds, however. City were focused on getting the job done, whereas Pochettino’s men were too busy crying about it.
In the 55th minute, Neymar went on a meandering run, skipping past numerous challenges before his effort was ultimately blocked by the sliding Zinchenko. His celebration hug and scream with John Stones when he stood back up was absolutely beautiful. This was more than a game of football to these guys, this was everything.
PSG were enjoying a portion of possession, but City were in control of the match. Frustrated and angered by their own impotence. The toys started to come flying out of the pram. It got worse for them in the 63rd minute when a lightning counter-attack put City 2-0 up on the night, and 4-1 up on aggregate. Phil Foden combined with Kevin De Bruyne on the left to release the England star into the box with a perfectly timed ball, his low cross was smashed in at the back post by Riyad Mahrez and Manchester City were in dreamland. The final blow had been struck.
PSG continued to huff and puff but every attempt was met by Ruben Dias, or John Stones, or Kyle Walker, or Zinchenko. They just could not penetrate the spirit of the Manchester City defence. The Balrog had an easier time getting past Gandolf the wizard.
This build-up of emotions from the Paris side boiled over in the 69th minute when Angel Di Maria was sent off for a stamp on Fernandinho. Pathetic and completely uncalled for. They simply could not accept that they were not the best team on the pitch.
Foul after foul followed the red card with Marco Verrati taking out Phil Foden and seeing yellow, before flying into the next challenge and being lucky not to see red himself. Kimpembe nearly cut both of Gabriel Jesus’s legs off with a horrendous scissor that he should have seen red for again. Danilo was the next to attack Gabriel Jesus with studs to the back of the knee. PSG were lucky to finish this game with 10 men instead of 7 or 8, it really was that bad.
Football won tonight. The good guys won. It was well deserved, well fought and ultimately Manchester City are going to the Champions League final, and PSG are going home. Good riddance.
THE BLUE WALL
I swear I have never celebrated blocks, defensive headers, and clearances as much in my life. I was screaming and cheering at each and everyone as City inched further towards the finish line. Defenders should enjoy defending, and after watching that performance tonight, you can easily say that ours do.
Ruben Dias. That's the name.
I cannot believe what I witnessed in that second half. The antics in the first leg were bad enough, but this reaction from the French side was literally dangerous. City were lucky that all of their players left the field of play without any broken limbs. That challenge on Jesus by Kimpembe should be investigated by the police it was so violent. You are a disgrace to the sport, and you should hang your heads in shame.
MAN OF THE MATCH
This is next to impossible. How do I select just one player for this? By virtue of his two goals on the night, I am going to hand it to Riyad Mahrez. Any one of them could have been handed this award and they all deserve it, but this man scored the vital goals, and this man gets the award.
The man of the moment!
EDERSON - 10
WALKER - 10
DIAS - 10
STONES - 10
ZINCHENKO - 10
FERNANDINHO - 10
GUNDOGAN - 10
DE BRUYNE - 10
BERNARDO - 10
FODEN - 10
MAHREZ - 10
Subs: Jesus – 10, Aguero – 10, Sterling – 10