In the absence of bars in a city riddled with pubs, graffiti breaks the dull surroundings of the Etihad. A few hours before the game, 100 meters from City’s stadium, two young men had finished outlining the faces of Jack Grealish and Ederson Moraes. Very close to there, Pep Guardiola’s face was already done days ago. “Perfection is part of my job”, he read superimposed on the mural.
Ederson Moraes, Manuel Akanji, Walker, Rúben Dias, Rodrigo, Gündogan (Mahrez, min. 79), De Bruyne (Foden, min. 83), John Stones, Erling Braut Haaland (Julián Álvarez, min. 89), Grealish and Bernardo Silva
Courtois, Eder Militao, Alaba, Camavinga (Aurelien Tchouameni, min. 79), Dani Carvajal (Lucas Vázquez, min. 79), Modric (Rüdiger, min. 63), Federico Valverde, Kroos (Marco Asensio, min. 70), Benzema, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo (Dani Ceballos, min. 79)
goals 1-0 min. 23: Bernardo Silva. 2-0 min. 36: Bernardo Silva. 3-0 min. 75: Manuel Akanji. 4-0 min. 91: Julian Alvarez.
Referee Szymon Marciniak
Yellow cards Rúben Dias (min. 50), Dani Carvajal (min. 55), Gündogan (min. 62), Camavinga (min. 75) and Grealish (min. 90)
A good advance to explain the tornado that his team unleashed against a Madrid as pale as the color of his shirt. The night had much of Guardiola’s personal work. He scared the ghost with the same 11 players for 169 minutes (the first change in the tie – Mahrez for Gündogan – did not take place until 3-0), and he did not even need the goals of the pachyderm Erling Haaland. Up to 52 has, for the moment, the striker throughout the course, but none of the five of the citizen in the semifinals of the Champions League. The twists and turns of football are like that. Until this Wednesday, there was only one team that the Norwegian had not punished, having faced two or more times: City, precisely, while he was at Dortmund. Against Madrid, in the Castellana Rüdiger dried him up and in the Etihah there was only one explanation, Courtois, the only Real Madrid player who did not present himself with a copy of himself.
With the relief of the win, Guardiola confessed that his team had dealt with Madrid and, above all, with the tortuous past that Madrid represented. “We have played through the pain of last year’s elimination. It was hard, ”he admitted as soon as he sat down before the press. “These days, I have had the feeling that this pain was very present. I remember that Kroos said that here (in Manchester, the previous season) they could have lost 10-1. Well, soccer has given us a revenge. We were criticized for not having character last season (in the comeback suffered at the Bernabéu), but no, we fell because this is football”, the coach explained very carefully, who did not hide his relief.
When he beat Bayern in the quarterfinals and saw that his future passed through Madrid again, he considered it an opportunity of fate. That pain pushed them and also, as he explained, having emerged unscathed from a difficult moment in the first leg. “The game was very dangerous at the Bernabéu with the 1-0. In the second half, the first 15 minutes were theirs and, if they scored the second, I don’t know how we would have reacted”, he commented.
With Madrid ventilated, now they are only three victories in the Premier, FA Cup and Champions League away from the treble. “I am a culé, you all know it”, continued the coach when he finished the question time from the English journalists and began to answer the Spanish in an atmosphere of old acquaintances. “Before winning the European Cup, Barça lost three or four finals. Why at City are we going to get it every year? We learned the lesson last year. The important thing is to be fighting for the competitions every season. It is what defines a great team and we have recently done it ”, he developed.
Dressed up to his neck in mourning, he had two hours of shock left over to meet the norm of 10,000 steps a day. The man was a constant centrifuge of movements and gestures in front of an Ancelotti who started the night with a relaxed pose and a stretched leg, and before the break he was already scratching his head. Each City action was followed by a fuss from the Catalan coach, who celebrated the 1-0 like a man possessed and with the 2-0, at game time, he knelt for an apparently inconsequential action. The theatrics only found a truce when, after the break, Kevin de Bruyne turned and yelled at him in full view. Guardiola, only then, took a break.
His second Champions League final with City (fourth in total; one behind Ancelotti) caught him with his classic postmark, without Norwegian dressings. In Haaland’s season, City shook Madrid with Rodri at the wheel – “imperial, without him we would not have done this”, the coach assessed – and Bernardo Silva scoring. When the two teams appeared under the whistle for the Champions League hymn, the Portuguese’s physique contrasted due to his small size (1.73) compared to wiry, tall and muscular guys. The complete opposite of his football. “I wasn’t very happy with my first leg and I had to make up for it. I think I did it,” said the Portuguese.
The night was inaugurated by Haaland threatening from above. Load citizen It was constant and even Walker beat Vinicius in the race, but the local solution to the trauma did not come with the new Nordic variants, but with the old essences of Guardiola. To the touch, attracting and filtering. The perfume of Bernardo Silva had already spread through the left wing of Camavinga, once again harassed in Europe.
Out there, two geniuses joined forces to start torturing Madrid, Kevin de Bruyne and Silva. The former hit a marvelous pass against the flaccid defense of Kroos and Modric, and the Portuguese aimed at the near post. For the second he didn’t need so much subtlety. In the middle of a whirlwind, he caught a rebound and headed into the most absolute solitude. A bit more prosaic than he ended up underlining his clinical nature when lentils are on the table: 10 of his 14 goals in the Champions League have gone into qualifying rounds.
And now, Inter in Istanbul, an appointment for which Guardiola reserved his usual caution. “A final against an Italian team that is not a favorite is the worst thing that can happen to you,” he said.