Mahrez fires Man City to first Champions League final

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Riyad Mahrez scored twice as Man City beat PSG to reach Champions League final
Riyad Mahrez scored twice as Man City beat PSG to reach Champions League final

Manchester City reached their first Champions League final as they overcame Paris St-Germain at Etihad Stadium to secure a commanding victory over two legs.

In a game played in unseasonal snow, the brilliant Riyad Mahrez capped a sweeping move started by goalkeeper Ederson’s 60-yard pass to extend their 2-1 advantage from the first leg in Paris.

PSG suffered a serious blow before kick-off when world-class forward Kylian Mbappe was restricted to the bench because of injury. They did not lack endeavour or intent but with Neymar subdued and City throwing bodies on the line in defence, Mauricio Pochettino’s side could not find a way through.

Mahrez punished them again just after the hour when he turned in Phil Foden’s cross at the far post to effectively end the contest.

Deal of the day

PSG, as they did when Idrissa Gueye was sent off late in the first leg, lost their discipline and Angel di Maria was shown a red card for a senseless stamp on Fernandinho following a touchline tangle.

City were in full control, avoiding further mishap to set up the Champions League final they and manager Pep Guardiola have craved, against either Chelsea or Real Madrid in Istanbul on 29 May.

Man City within touching distance of the great prize

The celebrations when Manchester City scored and at the final whistle illustrated the significance of what these players and Guardiola have achieved.

Guardiola and City have been sweeping up domestic titles on a regular basis, with his third Premier League title a formality which could be confirmed with victory against Chelsea here on Saturday.

This tournament, however, has been the one code an outstanding team has been unable to crack, with hard-luck stories to tell and crucial slips when the pressure is on, such as when they lost 3-1 to underdogs Lyon in a one-off quarter-final last season.

City have shown great maturity and development this season, keeping their nerve when under pressure against Borussia Dortmund in the last eight and also surviving a PSG surge in Paris six days ago to recover for an outstanding win.

Here, early nerves were settled by Mahrez’s goal and any further PSG threats were repelled with resilience and, when needed, desperate defending to ensure the lead they worked so hard to establish was well protected.

The Champions League has always been regarded as confirmation that Manchester City were a European superpower – now this high-class side will have the opportunity to confirm that status in Istanbul.

Guardiola has heroes everywhere

City’s success has been built on a squad effort, as proved by the way those who missed out on the starting line-up, such as Rodri, Aymeric Laporte, Joao Cancelo and Raheem Sterling, provided noisy support and encouragement from the sidelines.

Inevitably, though, there were stand-out performers and the list included match-winner Mahrez, the precocious Foden and the often unsung defender Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Mahrez took his time to settle in the early days of his City career but he is now a key component in Guardiola’s line-up, a creator and scorer of important goals, such as the two here. In eight Champions League starts this season he has scored four goals, including in both legs of this semi-final.

The first goal was classic Manchester City, started by remarkable vision from Ederson and finished emphatically by Mahrez.

The Algerian was a huge threat all night, tormenting PSG, and Foden was not far behind, as he grows in stature with every game. He has strength, vision on the ball and an end product, providing a perfect delivery for the second goal.

Zinchenko got the nod ahead of Cancelo and delivered a superb display, a threat going forward and top class in defence, with one crucial block from Neymar in the second half.

Above all, this was a team effort and Manchester City richly deserve their place in the Champions League final.

Another English team in the final – the stats

  • Manchester City are the ninth different English team to reach the European Cup/Champions League final; three more than any other nation (Germany and Italy – six sides).
  • City manager Pep Guardiola ended a run of four consecutive Champions League semi-final eliminations, reaching the final for the first time since 2010-11 with Barcelona.
  • City have won their past seven Champions League matches, the longest winning run by an English team in European Cup/Champions League history. Indeed, City are also the first English side to win 11 games in a single European Cup/Champions League campaign.
  • Mauricio Pochettino has lost more games against Pep Guardiola than he has versus any other manager in his managerial career (12). Guardiola’s total of 12 wins versus Pochettino is his joint most against a single manager in his career as a top-flight manager (level with Manuel Pellegrini and Sean Dyche).
  • PSG are the third team to receive a red card in both legs of a Champions League semi-final tie, after Deportivo v Porto in 2003-04 and Lyon v Bayern Munich in 2009-10.
  • Phil Foden is the sixth different Premier League player to record double figures for both goals (14) and assists (10) in all competitions this season, and the only Manchester City player to do so this term.