Champions League Glory in Sight for Pep
Man City Reach First-Ever Final – as They Win 4-1 on Aggregate Against PSG
As it Happened:
Thanks to some adverse weather conditions, the Etihad turf was covered in snow for this Champions League Semi-Final, something Jermaine Jenas noted would possibly be a factor that Man City would be more comfortable with than PSG. Both teams took their time to adjust to the conditions, but each started with confidence.
With star-man Kylian Mbappe starting on the bench it was always going to be a difficult night for Paris St. Germain. Neymar saw plenty of the ball early on for the French team; trading passes with Verratti and Di Maria as they looked to break down City’s defence.
Six minutes in, there were shouts for a penalty from PSG and the referee pointed to the spot. Upon review, it was seen that the ball brushed off Zinchenko’s shoulder and the referee, Björn Kuipers, reversed the decision. Only four minutes later, Riyad Mahrez grabs his second goal across both legs. A beautiful long ball from Ederson finds Zinchenko on the left-wing, and after a blocked shot from De Bruyne, Mahrez slots it in the far corner to give the hosts the early lead.
The action continued to come thick and fast as Marquinhos hit the crossbar with a looping header; he would have hoped to replicate his header from the first leg. Moments later, Man City are almost caught out when Di Maria capitalised on an error and curled his shot just wide of the open net from 25-yards; missing a chance that a player of his calibre would be expected to score.
The action slowed as we approached the half-hour mark, with De Bruyne trying his luck from distance but watching it curl beyond the top-right corner. The teams traded possession as PSG searched for their way back into the tie – with Di Maria and Neymar at the centre of their attacks. The Parisian’s struggled to create many clear-cut chances, with their next coming in the 35th minute when former Manchester United man Ander Herrera sent a well-struck shot narrowly over the crossbar. Hoping for a goal before halftime PSG were throwing players forward, however, Man City’s defence were equal to their advances – with Reuben Dias being particularly effective. It stayed 1-0 after the opening 45 minutes, and PSG would need a monumental effort to overturn the deficit.
As the second-half got underway, PSG knew they had to push forward from the off; the onus was on them to chase the game. It appeared they were growing frustrated as the Man City free-kicks began to rack up, and in-turn City became more aggressive also. Whether it be Verratti, Neymar, or Di Maria that were pushing the action; the well-drilled and focused defence of City were there to thwart any advances.
With PSG pushing everyone forward, Man City were able to capitalise and break away with Foden, who missed but was offside anyway. Moments later, a shot from distance from Foden was palmed away by Keylor Navas – a three-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid. The pace began to quicken, and a dazzling run from Neymar led to his shot being brilliantly blocked by Zinchenko – which City celebrated like a vital goal.
As PSG’s frustrations grew, with Neymar being allowed little room to operate, a volley from Herrera was bravely blocked by Reuben Dias – again. Moise Kean and Julian Draxler came on as the Parisians attempted to change proceedings, however, City immediately broke away again with pace and Riyad Mahrez was able to score his second at the back post. Mahrez continued his scintillating form in the knockout stage, having now registered 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 had his shot blocked by Dias once again – as he further asserted himself as a possible man of the match. With 20 minutes to go and frustrations clearly growing, Angel Di Maria kicked out at Fernandinho and gave the referee no chance but to send him off. The French team’s chances were disappearing before their eyes, and they were in serious danger of going down to 9-men. With the game drawing to a close, Phil Foden came extremely close to making it 3-0 with a left-footed strike that hit the post, as City continued to attack to the final whistle. The reckless challenges were flying in from PSG – with a few of their players lucky not to join Di Maria for an early bath.
Final score: Man City 2 v 0 PSG (4-1 on aggregate)
Man City looked superb tonight. They attacked with pace and defended with solidarity, and PSG did not have an answer for their quality. Foden, Dias, and Mahrez were all excellent and deserving of Man of the Match plaudits. Guardiola will be looking forward to the final as he looks to secure Champions League medal number three.
We now await the result of Real Madrid vs Chelsea to see who City will face in the final.