MAN CITY 4, REAL MADRID 0
(Man City won 5-1 on aggregate)
Treble-chasing Manchester City booked their place in the final of the Champions League followed a ruthless display against holders and 14th times European champions Real Madrid.
The second leg of their semi-final looked finely poised following City’s 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu last Tuesday.
But the return was anything but that as City produced a display which had the hallmark of champions in waiting, the one major honour that has eluded Pep Guardiola in his near seven years at the Etihad.
Surely that will change on June 10 when City, beaten in the 2021 final by Chelsea, face Inter Milan in Istanbul, Turkey.
Two first-half goals from Bernardo Silva – how they will miss him if he leaves in the summer – set City on their way.
There were further goals in the second period as Eder Militao found his own net and substitute Julian Alvarez sealed victory as City extended their unbeaten run to 23 games in all competitions.
And it might have been an even more comprehensive margin of victory as City avenged their semi-final defeat to Madrid 12 months ago.
Erling Haaland lost a personal duel with Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois who pulled off three brilliant save to keep the hotshot off the scoresheet.
Though Madrid struck the bar and forced City keeper into two excellent stops, it was only token resistance.
Guardiola described it as one of the “highest” victories given the opponent and he could now visualise his team winning the treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.
He said: “We had to perform, and it was really, really good.
“We had pain in our stomachs for a year. We had to accept it last year, congratulate them and move on.
“We had the pain of last year and the year before. I had a feeling in the last few days, a mix of calm and I could smell the team was ready to compete.
“It was really tough to lose last year. We had to swallow the poison. When the draw was made, I said I wanted it.”Embed from Getty Images
Guardiola pointed out Barcelona had to get in four finals before finally landing the Champions League.
He said: “If we get through to enough finals, surely we will one.
“We have behaved like a great side in the last few years.
“We have been consistent. We are one game away from winning three Premier Leagues in a row.
“We are in a second final of the Champions League and have won the Carabao Cup four times.
“The level they have played at, I am so proud. They are so humble, and these guys have taken it seriously for many, many years and today they got their reward.”
Silva said: “It is a beautiful night for us. We know it would be tough but to beat this Real Madrid team 4-0 at home was wonderful. Hopefully we will win it.
“We know how tough they are. They pushed us but we were very resilient, we were passionate but organised at the time.
“My performance in the first game in Madrid was not the one I wanted. I wanted to compensate that. Today I had to do better for my team-mates and the fans and that is what I tried to do. I am small but good with my head!”
Looking to the final, Silva added: “I watched their games, they look very strong and organised defensively. It will be tough, but we will try it.
“The Premier League is another trophy we want to win with our fans again so will look to recover before then.”
Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti had no complaints, saying: “Tonight City deserved to win as they played better than us.
“They deserved to fight for the final as we did last year when we were better than them.
“They played with more intensity and quality up front and took their chances in the first half.
“The game did no go to plan. We do not have to make a drama of it, end of.
“We have had a good season and shown character. To reach the semi finals of the Champions League is a success. A lot of teams enter and only four get to the semis which is an achievement.”
City named the same starting line-up that drew 1-1 at Real Madrid in the first leg.
That meant Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Silva and John Stones, who were all on the bench for Sunday’s 3-0 win against Everton, return to the starting line-up.
Militao, suspended for the first leg, came in at Antonio Rudiger’s expense.
It could have been South America pre-match with flags flying and ticker tape reminiscent of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina for those of us old enough to remember those incredible scenes.
City completely dominated enjoying 83 per cent possession in the opening 15 minutes when there were chances for Rodri and Stones.
Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois pulled off two amazing saves in the opening 21 minutes, each time denying Erling Haaland’s efforts from inside the six-yard box while De Bruyne whipped a free kick just past the upright.
It was no surprise when City took a 23rd minute lead when De Bruyne released Silva with a slide-rule pass before finally beating Courtois.
Haaland went close for a third time with a drive which flew wide.
Madrid had to wait until the 35th minute before carving out their first chance, but what a terrific effort as Toni Kroos’ drive from distance rattled the bar.
But City soon doubled their lead when Ilkay Gundogan’s effort was blocked by Vinicius Junior and flew into the air to Silva who looped in a header.
Silva was having a field day on the right against Eduardo Camavinga who did not know how to deal with the City midfielder’s darting runs and cut ins from the right.
And City finished the half with 72 per cent possession and 13 goal attempts to Madrid’s one.
Something had to change, and Madrid were far more positive and adventurous as they took the game to City.
Ederson pulled off a fabulous fingertip save to turn over a free kick from David Alaba, but Real struggled to carve out chances despite enjoying more possession.
Courtois kept Madrid in the game with a brilliant block to deflect Haaland’s effort on to the crossbar. It followed a brilliant back heel from Gundogan to release the Norwegian.
City sealed their place in Istanbul with a third goal 14 minutes from time.
De Bruyne’s free kick was met by Manuel Akanji’s glanced header which took a massive deflection off Militao who was credited with an own goal.
City were able to ring the changes as Gundogan, De Bruyne and Haaland were replaced by Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Alvarez.
Ederson made a great save to deny Dani Ceballos and preserve a clean sheet.
There was even better to come in stoppage time when Alvarez added a fourth goal as he was put through by Foden before slotting a low shot past Courtois as the celebrations began long into the night.