By the time Riyad Mahrez completed the counterattack that sealed Manchester City’s place in the first leg of the Champions League, it seemed so effortless to overcome the Paris Saint-Germain squad, which had lost its composure and composure.
“Then they lost their temper and started kicking us, and it was good,” Mahrez said.
The Paris-born wing was the net twice before PSG expelled Angel Di Maria. City won 2-0 to eliminate last season’s finalists 4-1 on Tuesday.
“They had the red card,” said Mahrez, “and then we were more comfortable.”
For City, it was anything but convenient for the first time to lift the top prize of European football, despite a 13-year lavish investment. Even reaching this semi-final required a fight in court to lift the Champions League ban this season for violating UEFA’s financial rules.
And it’s only been two weeks since the Abu Dhabi-owned team came under new sanctions for joining a brief, unfortunate bid to split to help form the breakaway European Super League.
City can now win the match they tried to leave in the all-English final on May 29 in Istanbul if Chelsea beat Real Madrid on Wednesday. Chelsea and Madrid played to a 1-1 draw in the first match.
“Of course, we’ve invested money in the last decade since Sheikh Mansour took over the club, but it’s not just about that,” said city manager Pep Guardiola. “If you want to think it’s just about money, it’s okay. But there are a lot of amazing things behind the scenes.”
Not only City has been disappointed in its quest to win the biggest prize in European football. Guardiola, the winner of the Champions League as coach of Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, is waiting a decade to return to the final. He lost three times to Bayern Munich and took until his fifth season at City to even reach the semifinals.
“Reaching the Champions League final is so difficult,” Guardiola said. “It’s the hardest part, but we did it.”
City are now accustomed to success – sitting on the edge of their third Premier League title in four seasons, having already won the League Cup last year. But his only continental title came with the now-defunct 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup.
“This club needed a final, these players needed a final,” said City defender Kyle Walker. “For these players not to participate in the Champions League final is a disappointment every year.”
PSG missed a second shot in the first European Cup after losing last season’s final to Bayern Munich, and Mauricio Pochettino’s squad even struggled to defend the French title.
“Disappointed and very sad,” said Pochettino, who lost the 2019 Champions League final as Tottenham manager. “We played well, but we didn’t have the luck you need in football.”
And in the clash of Gulf-funded European footballers, it was the Qatari visitors from Paris on their feet quickly to Manchester.
After marking the winner of the City of Paris last week, Mahrez took just 11 minutes to score in the return leg. The move started with a long ball by defender Alexander Zinchenko, who ran on a long ball from goalkeeper Ederson.
“It’s something we’ve been working on all along,” Mahrez said, “and it went well today.”
Zinchenko passed to Kevin De Bruyne, whose shot was blocked by Keylor Navas, but Mahrez was on the alert for a rebound to pass the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs on a field covered with the remnants of spring hail.
Mauro Icardi proved ineffective in the attack of PSG, detached from Killian Mbape, who was not fit enough to start and was never entrusted to be placed off the bench.
There were headers from Marquinhos and Neymar, but PSG could not find a way past the defense, which led Ruben Diaz to prove such a strong barrier.
PSG’s back line was easier to break, which happened again in the 63rd minute. There was a violent run on the left flank by Phil Foden before a combination with De Bruyne and a cross to Mahrez to enter the net.
“We were until the end,” said PSG midfielder Marco Verratti. “When you play against big teams, it’s impossible to attack for 90 minutes without suffering. We have to accept that. “
PSG’s disappointments were clear, even without any crowd to create a frightening atmosphere. The guests finished the game with 10 people just like in the first game, after Di Maria was sent off for 20 minutes to continue kicking in Fernandinho.
PSG turned to the referee, and midfielder Ander Herrera in an interview after the match accused Bjorn Kuipers of leading a blasphemer of PSG teammate Leandro Paredes. I honestly didn’t hear him.
“Maybe UEFA will investigate the situation,” he said. “But now I don’t think that’s an excuse.”