Manchester City 2, Paris St Germain 0 (Champions League Semi Final second leg, Man City win 4-1 on aggregate)
Riyad Mahrez scored twice as Manchester City qualified for their first ever Champions League final by beating a petulant Paris St Germain.
Incessant rain and hail pre-game greeted the visitors to Manchester for City’s 56th game of the season and amidst wintry conditions, perhaps not as frozen as City’s Ballet on Ice game over 50 years ago, the ending was largely the same as the home side proved impossible to score against for a PSG side without the injured Kylian Mbappe.
In the end, Neymar and the remaining French superstars came up against a committed defensive performance combined with two clinical finishes by Mahrez that will see City boss Pep Guardiola contest his first Champions League final in a decade and his third since winning his first two with Barcelona in 2008/09 and 2010/11.
Marquinhos and Phil Foden hit the woodwork and City needed VAR to dismiss a poor penalty call against them while Angel Di Maria went agonisingly close to scoring in the first half but was sent off for a ludicrous lunge on Fernandinho in the second half that ended their comeback hopes for the second time in a week with City going on to prevent PSG from even having a shot on target in the game.
Just like last week Foden, who was playing as through there was no ice on the playing surface, could have scored himself after some delicious moves but had to content himself with an assist for Mahrez as he became the sixth Premier League player to record double figures for goals (14) and assists (10) in all competitions this season – the only City player to do so this term.
The frustration was palpable for the French who had seen nearly every chance they made blocked by the City defence – if it wasn’t Ruben Dias or John Stones blocking the ball then it was Oleksandr Zinchenko or Kyle Walker taking a turn as City booked their flight to Istanbul as the 9th different English side to reach the European Cup or Champions League Final – and the first English side to win 11 single European Cup or Champions League games in a single campaign.
Guardiola, in his first Champions League final for a decade, explained that luck had a big say in reaching the big finals.
He said: “I’m incredibly proud. My first thought is for the players who didn’t play today but everyone made their contribution in this season.
On the goal that started things off, Guardiola was effusive, saying: “It’s not the first time that Ederson has shown his quality. He’s the guy for the long balls, Oleks was so clever and the finishing was superb.”
He went on: “People believe it’s easy to win the Champions League.
“It’s remarkable. We won the first game [in Paris against PSG] because of a shot between the hips.
“[Today] maybe the crossbar shot goes in, maybe the penalty is a penalty.
“It’s so difficult – the stars are involved.
“We won 11 games in this competition – just a draw against Porto – and now we are in the final.
“Getting to the Champions League final makes sense after what we have done the last 5 years.
“PSG win their league every year, they have massive players.
“But we suffered together, we defended well and we did it and now we have two or three weeks to prepare for the final.”
Riyad Mahrez scores double to send Man City to their first Champions League final
Guardiola made two changes from the side that was victorious in Paris last week – Oleksandr Zinchenko replaced Joao Cancelo while Fernandinho, 36 today, was selected ahead of Rodri as only Ederson and Fernandinho remained in the side that beat Crystal Palace at the weekend.
Kylian Mbappe was only fit enough to be named on the Paris St Germain bench, and Mauricio Pochettino chose to replace him and the suspended Idrissa Gana Gueye with Mauro Icardi and ex-United midfielder Ander Herrera while Abdou Diallo replaced Mitchel Bakker in their third change.
John Stones and Bernardo Silva blocked shots by Neymar and Angel Di Maria while the Argentine went down too easily with PSG claiming for everything.
Bjorn Kuipers was moved to give a handball against Zinchenko which struck the Ukraine man on his shoulder soon afterwards – VAR intervened and a quick look at the pitch side monitor allowed the experienced referee to reverse his call after just 7 minutes to the relief of City.
And after 11 minutes Ederson launched a big clearance up to Zinchenko and the City left back cut the ball back for De Bruyne who saw his shot deflected into the path of Riyad Mahrez who thrashed the ball low past Keylor Navas for his 13th goal of the season to become only the second player to score in both legs of a Champions League semi final for an English club after Sadio Mane in 2017/18.
Neymar won a dangerous free kick 25 yards from goal but his shot was deflected over the bar for a corner but City repelled the Brazilians’ set piece again.
Marquinhos subsequently hit the crossbar and Di Maria curled the ball wide as PSG had to gamble and press high to win set pieces.
But City were comfortable enough to start passing the ball around – and there were some good half chances too with Phil Foden’s lobbed pass almost finding De Bruyne but for a defensive toe end for Alessandro Florenzi to get the ball away.
PSG kept looking for openings though and Herrera shot over the bar as City started making more errors to give them hope.
Dias blocked brilliantly to prevent Herrera’s cross from reaching the six yard box with Stones helping with the follow-up as PSG kept going despite risking City counter attacks include one which saw Foden go past three players before sending the ball on but seeing it subsequently come back on the break.
Navas saved from Mahrez while Silva’s curler was headed away by Presnel Kimpembe as an absorbing first half came to an end.
De Bruyne threaded Foden in for a run on goal after the break but the City man had gone too early and was flagged offside after he has sen the ball into the arms of Navas.
Foden was also denied by Navas moments later with a long shot while Zinchenko blocked a shot by Neymar at the other end with City desperate to stop him from scoring.
Moise Kean replaced Icardi while Julian Draxler came on for Herrera after 63 minutes in a strong sign that Mbappe wasn’t fit as PSG went for it.
But Mahrez merely ended the game seconds later when Foden exchanged passes with De Bruyne before racing down the left lank and squaring the ball for the Algerian to double his tally on the night for his 14th of the season.
Angel Di Maria sent off for petulant foul on Man City birthday boy Fernandinho to seal PSG fate
Things only got worse fo the French with 21 minutes to go when frustrations finally boiled over for Di Maria who saw red after lashing out at Fernandinho when both players tussled over a throw-in.
The French team imploded again as bookings for Marco Verratti and Zinchenko were dished out with the visitors lashing out.
Danilo and Colin Dagba replaced Florenzi and Leandro Paredes with 15 minutes to go but City were still not done.
De Bruyne forced a desperate save from Navas while Foden went alone and struck the back upright after turning Kimpembe and also had another shot saved by Navas.
De Bruyne was replaced by Gabriel Jesus while Raheem Sterling replaced Bernardo Silva for the last 8 minutes, while Mitchel Bakker replaced Diallo and Sergio Aguero quickly followed for his last Champions League appearance at the Etihad for City – replacing Foden with 5 minutes to go.
And City professionally saw out the game despite some low quality antics from the clearly frustrated PSG players who picked up more bookings – and City could celebrate properly after Neymar pumped an injury time free kick over the bar.
GOALS – Manchester City 2, Paris St Germain 0 (Champions League Semi Final second leg, Man City win 4-1 on aggregate)
Man City 1, Paris St Germain 0: 11. Riyad Mahrez was perfectly placed to drill the ball low past Keylor Navas after Kevin De Bruyne’s shot was deflected into his path.
Man City 2, Paris St Germain 0: 63. Riyad Mahrez doubled his tally for the night after Phil Foden squared the ball from the left for him to tap in unmarked from 6 yards out.
MATCH STATS – Manchester City 2, Paris St Germain 0 (Champions League Semi Final second leg, Man City win 4-1 on aggregate)
Man City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko, Bernardo Silva (Sterling 82), Fernandinho, Gundogan, Mahrez, De Bruyne (Jesus 82), Foden (Aguero 85)
Man City Subs not used: Steffen, Carson, Ake, Laporte, Rodri, Torres, Mendy, Cancelo
Booking: Zinchenko 72 (dissent); De Bruyne 74 (obstruction)
Goals: Mahrez 11, 63
Paris Saint Germain: Navas, Florenzi (Dagba 75), Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Diallo (Bakker 82), Herrera (Draxler 63), Paredes (Danilo 75), Di Maria, Verratti, Neymar, Icardi (Kean 63)
Paris Saint Germain subs not used: Rico, Kehrer, Mbappe, Rafinha, Sarabia, Randriamamy
Bookings: Herrera 22 (dissent after tackle on Bernardo Silva); Veratti 72 (foul on Phil Foden); Kimpembe 88 (foul on Gabriel Jesus); Danilo 89 (foul on Gabriel Jesus)
Red Card: Di Maria 63 (stamp on Fernandinho)
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers