For the first time in club history, Manchester City has advanced to the Champions League final.
The Premier League leader advanced past Paris Saint-Germain by a 4-1 aggregate score after a 2-0 second leg Tuesday at Etihad Stadium in Manchester, thanks to a brace from Riyad Mahrez.
After a hailstorm struck Manchester, the weather for the match was less than ideal:
Paris Saint-Germain suffered a setback when one of their best players was injured. Kylian Mbappe had to sit out the first half of the match due to a calf injury. For the rest of the evening, the French forward remained in that position.
The state of the pitch made stringing together passes for fast offensive moves a little more difficult. When Ederson launched a long ball ahead to Oleksandr Zinchenko, he found a solution to the problem. This set off a chain of events that culminated in Mahrez’s 11th-minute goal.
PSG’s attempts on goal were repeatedly thwarted by City, who blocked nine shots and kept PSG to zero attempts on goal. Ruben Dias, in particular, was outstanding as the back four’s tone-setter. Similarly to how Virgil van Dijk almost single-handedly lifted Liverpool’s leaky defence when he arrived, the Portuguese defender has had a huge impact in his first season at the club.
On 63 minutes, Mahrez got himself into acres of space for a simple finish from a cross by Phil Foden, removing any doubt about the result.
Angel Di Maria added to Paris Saint-woes Germain’s by receiving a red card in the 69th minute for stamping on Fernandinho’s foot.
Paris Saint-Germain set themselves a daunting task Tuesday night after unravelling in the second half of the first leg. That would have been valid even if Mbappe had begun from the beginning, and his absence only added to the difficulty.
Mauricio Pochettino has chosen Mauro Icardi to play in the No. 9 spot. Despite the fact that the Argentine has seven goals in 18 Ligue 1 games, PSG was unable to exploit his strengths in this match.
Given how difficult it would have been to please everybody involved in the assault, keeping Edinson Cavani rather than letting his contract expire was probably impractical. But one can’t help but wonder if PSG would have been better with Cavani leading the line instead of Mbappe on Tuesday.
Given how desperate the club is to taste European glory for the first time, losing in the semifinals is a bitter pill to take. This has been a difficult season for the Parisians, with a tighter-than-expected Ligue 1 title race and the sacking of Thomas Tuchel.
Pochettino should have a far stronger squad next season after having a full offseason to work with his team.
Manchester City, on the other hand, is on the verge of achieving what the club’s owners hoped for when they hired Pep Guardiola in 2016. City’s success in England has yet to completely apply to the Champions League, although that could change in the near future.
What Will Happen Next?
The winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Chelsea and Real Madrid will advance to the final. The Blues drew 1-1 with Madrid in the first leg, giving them a small advantage in away goals.