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Football Reporting


Man City’s spirited team of heroes show imploding PSG what it takes to reach the final – David McDonnell

For Manchester City, the holy grail of a first Champions League triumph is now within touching distance.

A little over two decades since they were grubbing around in the third tier of English football, at the likes of Walsall and Lincoln, City have made it to the top table of Europe’s elite club competition.

Two goals from Riyad Mahrez gave City victory and an unassailable advantage after their epic win in Paris, taking them into the final in Istanbul against Chelsea or Real Madrid.

But there were heroes in light blue shirts all over the pitch at the Etihad Stadium, as Pep Guardiola’s side swept aside last season’s beaten finalists with ruthless collective conviction.

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Few would side against Guardiola's men from here
Few would side against Guardiola’s men from here

For Pep Guardiola, who twice won the trophy as Barcelona coach, it is the first time he has reached the final in 10 years, but few would bet against him making it a hat-trick of triumphs after this win.

And with the Carabao Cup already won and the Premier League title soon to be wrapped up, another Treble is also within City’s sights.

If one moment summed up City’s historic night, it came 10 minutes after the break, when Neymar shaped to shoot, but saw his goal-bound shot blocked by Oleksandr Zinchenko.

John Stones hugged Zinchenko as if he had scored, the episode encapsulating the character and togetherness that has seen City mature and become such formidable opponents in Europe.

Guardiola’s side were ultimately aided by PSG’s implosion, with Angel Di Maria sent off with 21 minutes to go for a stamp on Fernandinho, which eased City’s task in seeing out the game.

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The likes of Dias in defence proved impossible to break down for the visitors
The likes of Dias in defence proved impossible to break down for the visitors

Without their star forward Kylian Mbappe, PSG’s attack was blunted, with his replacement, Mauro Icardi, a peripheral figure throughout, eventually hooked with almost half-an-hour to go.

Yet, just as in the first leg, PSG started strongly, controlling possession and putting City under early pressure, with Guardiola’s men unable to get out of their own half in the opening stages.

After seven minutes, the French champions were awarded a penalty for an alleged handball by Zinchenko, who protested his innocence after ref Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot.

As soon as Guardiola and the City bench saw a replay of the incident, which clearly showed the ball hit Zinchenko’s left shoulder, they implored the referee to check the pitch-side monitor.

Mahrez opened the scoring shortly after PSG's penalty was overturned
Mahrez opened the scoring shortly after PSG’s penalty was overturned

Will City go all the way in the Champions League this season? Have your say in the comments.

As soon as he did that, Kuipers changed his mind, Guardiola’s men taking full advantage of the reversal of the injustice by opening the scoring four minutes later.

Ederson spotted the forward run of Zinchenko and picked him out with a sublime long-range pass, the full-back scampering on to the ball before cutting it back for Kevin De Bruyne.

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De Bruyne’s shot was blocked, the ball fizzing towards Mahrez, who produced a composed angled finish for his 13th goal of the season and a 3-1 advantage for City.

PSG skipper Marquinhos, who scored the opener in the first leg, thudded the bar with a header, while Di Maria somehow managed to shoot wide, with the City goal at his mercy.

City sealed the win – and their place in the final – with a wonderfully-worked goal in the 63rd minute, made by De Bruyne and Foden, and finished with a flourish by Mahrez at the far post.

Five years after reaching a first semi-final and after three successive quarter-final exits, City have made it to the final of the one competition to elude them and the one Guardiola was brought in to win.

A place among Europe’s elite clubs is theirs if City can finish the job and lift the trophy on May 29.

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