The sheikh had to endure thirteen years to see his project succeed. After a long wait, Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola at the helm, will play their first Champions League final on May 29 after confirming against Paris Saint Germain (2-0) that their moment, finally, has arrived.
Since in 2008 the English team was absorbed by a group from Saudi Arabia, the obsession was the ‘Orejona’. Conquered the Premier League and the English cups, the challenge was to create European glory for a team that only had a Cup Winners’ Cup in their showcases.
And the definitive step to that glory was confirmed this Tuesday, in a snowy field, covered by the frost of the hailstorm that fell in Manchester and that dressed the grass of the Etihad Stadium. In a scenario from another era (and another season), the world order of soccer was also changing, with two teams built on the basis of a checkbook.
As in every Guardiola bite at the European Cup in the last ten years, there were going to be scares. The referee whistled a non-existent penalty by Oleksandr Zinchenko as soon as he started, but the VAR reviewed it to the relief of a Guardiola, who at 10 minutes was going to be celebrating the first of his team.
Somewhat with his stamp, because it was born from a ball with the intention of Ederson. Zinchenko took the entire defense ahead, reached the area and put a pass back that De Bruyne finished off. He rejected the defense and the rebound was left to Mahrez who slipped the ball between Keylor’s legs.
A dagger for a PSG that had to see one of its two stars shot down on the bench, injured. Kylian Mbappé could not add. And Marquinhos, the first leg scorer, ran into the crossbar. And Di María missed the gift of City in a frank shot without a goalkeeper. And Neymar was missing.
But he was at City Rubén Dias, to get in the way of Ander Herrera’s shots, and Zinchenko, congratulated when he cut a dangerous shot. City is finally the perfect machine that dominates both sides of the court, defends itself by pressing in the opponent’s small area and kills the counter.
From a corner in favor of PSG, the second of the English arrived. Ball filtered by De Bruyne, pass from Foden’s death and shot at Mahrez’s pleasure.
Those of Pochettino finished exploding when Di María lost his head and kicked himself out with a kick to Fernandinho.
PSG takes a step back, after reaching the runner-up last year, City achieves what they have been looking for for so many years. It will be Guardiola’s third final, the first in ten years. City’s return to a continental final in 51 years, the first in the European Cup. The sheikh is already smiling.