December 7, 2022

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Man City 2-0 PSG (4-1 agg): Riyad Mahrez strikes twice as hosts reach first Champions League final

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The two goals from Riyad Mahrez, that is what the record books will show. But the two second-half blocks – they were just as much the key to a remarkable night in Manchester.

Oleksandr Zinchenko from Neymar to the left of the penalty area, Ruben Dias taking one in the chest and face from Ander Herrera. The way both players threw themselves at the ball. Would they have been goals? Would they have made a difference? It is impossible to say for sure.

Most certainly, though, these vignettes encapsulated the determination that has taken Manchester City to their first Champions League final, and their first European final of any kind since winning the UEFA Cup-Winners Cup against Gornik Zabrze of Poland in 1970. That, in itself, is history. The longest gap of any club between UEFA finals – City’s 51 years beating the 41 that separated Sporting Lisbon’s 1964 Cup-Winners Cup from their 2005 UEFA Cup. 

Riyad Mahrez wheels away in celebration after scoring Man City's second goal against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday

Riyad Mahrez wheels away in celebration after scoring Man City's second goal against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday

Riyad Mahrez wheels away in celebration after scoring Man City’s second goal against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday

Mahrez doubled his side's lead on the night with an emphatic finish at the back post after being found by Phil Foden

Mahrez doubled his side's lead on the night with an emphatic finish at the back post after being found by Phil Foden

Mahrez doubled his side’s lead on the night with an emphatic finish at the back post after being found by Phil Foden

Abdou Diallo could only watch as Mahrez gave his side a three-goal lead in the Champions League semi-final tie

Abdou Diallo could only watch as Mahrez gave his side a three-goal lead in the Champions League semi-final tie

Abdou Diallo could only watch as Mahrez gave his side a three-goal lead in the Champions League semi-final tie 

MATCH FACTS 

Man City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko, Mahrez, Fernandinho, Gundogan, Foden (Aguero 85), De Bruyne (Gabriel Jesus 82), Bernardo Silva (Sterling 82)

Subs not used: Ake, Steffen, Laporte, Rodri, Torres, Mendy Joao Cancelo, Carson.

Booked: Zinchenko,De Bruyne.

Goals: Mahrez 11, 63

PSG: Navas, Florenzi (Dagba 75), Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Diallo (Bakker 82), Ander Herrera (Draxler 62), Paredes (Danilo Pereira 75), Verratti, Di Maria, Icardi (Kean 62), Neymar

Subs not used: Kehrer,Mbappe-Lottin, Rafinha, Sergio Rico, Sarabia, Kurzawa, Randriamamy.

Sent Off: Di Maria (69)

Booked: Ander Herrera, Verratti, Kimpembe, Danilo Pereira 

Ref: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland)

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City are also the first English club to win seven consecutive games in Champions League or European Cup competition – and no team does that on skill and fantasy alone. 

There is resilience here, a defensive defiance that faced down Paris Saint-Germain until, after the second goal, they lost their heads: again.

Angel Di Maria was shown a straight red card by the exasperated referee Bjorn Kuipers of Holland, having stamped on Fernandinho while collecting the ball for a throw-in. 

Mauricio Pochettino tried to restrain his man, but ended up arguing with the officials himself. PSG then spent the rest of the game trying to kick City’s players out of the final or rile them sufficiently to provoke a ban. 

Fortunately none succumbed, although the otherwise brilliant Zinchenko got foolishly involved after Marco Verratti fouled Phil Foden. It would have been sweeter revenge soon after had Foden scored when through one on one but he hit the foot of the far post.

So Guardiola finally gets another tilt at what Ruud Gullit called the cup with the big ears. He couldn’t get it as coach of Bayern Munich and his many unlikely failures at City were threatening to turn into folklore. 

It won’t be easy from here – Chelsea or Real Madrid await – but this is not a typical City side in the way they have approached this competition. To have conceded just four goals in the entire campaign is a stunning record. 

While PSG were dangerous – although less so without the pace of Kylian Mbappe – they never truly looked capable of turning this tie around. Ederson’s main contribution in Manchester City’s goal was not a save but the pass that helped create the first goal.

Mahrez was again the match-winning hero of the night after his similar turn in Paris and his second confirmed City’s presence in Istanbul. 

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It was a sublime move – a break down the left by Foden, a pass inside to Kevin De Bruyne, returned and then crossed for Mahrez to execute at the far post. 

There was a huge celebration by the corner flag – but celebrations, too, followed those moments of defensive excellence. At the end, Dias, Kyle Walker, Ederson and John Stones formed a bouncing huddle of joy, while Zinchenko sunk to the pitch sobbing tears of joy. City’s players know the importance of their defensive record in Europe, the importance of putting a body on the line in conditions that were almost comically freezing for Manchester in May.

The visitors started well but Mahrez gave Pep Guardiola's side the lead on the night after Kevin De Bruyne's shot was blocked

The visitors started well but Mahrez gave Pep Guardiola's side the lead on the night after Kevin De Bruyne's shot was blocked

The visitors started well but Mahrez gave Pep Guardiola’s side the lead on the night after Kevin De Bruyne’s shot was blocked

Mahrez fired the ball under goalkeeper Keylor Navas at his near post to leave PSG with an even bigger mountain to climb

Mahrez fired the ball under goalkeeper Keylor Navas at his near post to leave PSG with an even bigger mountain to climb

Mahrez fired the ball under goalkeeper Keylor Navas at his near post to leave PSG with an even bigger mountain to climb

De Bruyne rushes over to celebrate with his team-mate after they both helped City increase their lead in the tie

De Bruyne rushes over to celebrate with his team-mate after they both helped City increase their lead in the tie

De Bruyne rushes over to celebrate with his team-mate after they both helped City increase their lead in the tie 

A pre-match hailstorm left the pitch covered in white and made the ball’s progress unpredictable. A few players – good ones – were caught out, but City were worth their win. 

Guardiola talked of having the champagne on ice for the title celebrations – there was plenty of ice about Tuesday night, too, but City braved the cold, never scared to take a ball at point blank range if it moved them an inch nearer the Bosporus. Their team spirit was everything to this win.

Of course, one sometimes wonders how good PSG could be if they focused more on their undoubted virtues and less on the collective pressuring of referees over every perceived slight, real or imagined. 

They whine in formation: about handballs that aren’t, fouls that are half the offence claimed, injustices that are pure fiction. It becomes incredibly tiring and, with referees, undoubtedly does more harm than good. Certainly, Kuipers good humour seemed to curdle once the first major incident of the game saw him taken for a fool.

Angel Di Maria was shown a straight red card in the second half for stamping on the foot of midfielder Fernandinho

Angel Di Maria was shown a straight red card in the second half for stamping on the foot of midfielder Fernandinho

Angel Di Maria was shown a straight red card in the second half for stamping on the foot of midfielder Fernandinho 

Di Maria protested the decision but the video assistant referee confirmed that his evening deserved to come to an end

Di Maria protested the decision but the video assistant referee confirmed that his evening deserved to come to an end

Di Maria protested the decision but the video assistant referee confirmed that his evening deserved to come to an end

PSG had already had a couple of men down by then, just seven minutes in. Alessandro Florenzi’s claim against Foden seemed particularly impassioned but, on closer examination, turned out to be no more than a wholly accidental step on his toes. 

Then, Neymar failed to make the expected contact with a header in the box and the ball struck a startled Zinchenko behind him. The appeals for handball were vocal, numerous and immediate and Kuiper pointed to the spot. Zinchenko was enraged, furiously slapping the top of his shoulder to indicate where the ball had hit. 

Pol Van Boekel, the VAR, suggested Kuiper take a second look, meaning he agreed. He was right. It was Zinchenko’s shoulder and not even the point adjoining his arm. PSG got very little play from the Dutch official after that.

A bigger setback, however, was City’s goal three minutes later. It was the work of probably the best goalkeeper-playmaker in the game right now, Ederson. He has overtaken Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich. Maybe Neuer’s close control is better, but Ederson hits long, raking passes that start counter-attacks inside the opponents half. One such ball helped give City the lead.

He played it wide left for Zinchenko – having his finest game in a City shirt, and arguably the man of the match, who timed his run magnificently. He was just inside City’s own half when the pass was hit, deep inside PSG’s when he received it on the run. 

He got adjacent to the penalty area and cut the ball back to De Bruyne. Florenzi charged his shot down, but the ball spun out to Mahrez on the right and he took his chance – firing a low shot past Keylor Nevas. Technically it did not change the demand from a Parisian point of view – they still needed to score twice. But now those two goals would only take the match into extra-time, rather than set up a trip to Istanbul.

Neymar cut a dejected figure for much of the second half as City continued to dominant the game at the Etihad Stadium

Neymar cut a dejected figure for much of the second half as City continued to dominant the game at the Etihad Stadium

Neymar cut a dejected figure for much of the second half as City continued to dominant the game at the Etihad Stadium

PSG responded well, though. In the 16th minute, first-leg goalscorer Marquinhos hit the bar with a header and three minutes later Di Maria spurned the best chance of the night. 

Sometimes Ederson’s eye for a pass is almost too keen. Eager to get a counter-attack started again he picked out Ilkay Gundogan who either wasn’t ready for it, or had too much to do bringing the ball under control. 

He was sacked by Di Maria who now had clear sight of a goal with no Ederson in it. He was 30 yards out but, even so, should have hit the target. Ederson was nowhere if he had. Instead the ball travelled wide, close enough to hit the back stanchion, but no cigar.

The relationship with Kuipers was becoming problematic, though. In the 22nd minute, Ander Herrera jumped with Bernardo Silva and collapsed with a scream as if stabbed in the ribs. Kuipers gave the free-kick to City. Herrera then compounded Kuiper’s irritation by getting into a minor scuffle with Gundogan and was booked. 

It must have been for the altercation not the initial simulation. If Kuipers was booking for unnecessary drama we’d have been here until midnight. In the second half Leandro Paredes backed into Dias and fell forward, claiming a foul as they tussled at a corner. Kuipers gave that City’s way, too. It was their night, at the front, at the back, everywhere on the field.

Pep Guardiola celebrates after the referee's final whistle confirmed his side's place in the final of the Champions League

Pep Guardiola celebrates after the referee's final whistle confirmed his side's place in the final of the Champions League

Pep Guardiola celebrates after the referee’s final whistle confirmed his side’s place in the final of the Champions League

Scroll down to see how it all unfolded with Sportsmail’s live runner… 

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