May 18 – Manchester City pulverised holders Real Madrid 4-0 to reach the final of the Champions League and keep their dream of a treble alive.
In a grand display at the Etihad Stadium, Bernardo Silva, twice, Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez were all on the scoresheet to dispatch the European champions. City enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and reduced Luka Modric and co to simple bystanders. Madrid struggled to get out of their own half and never got a foothold in the game.
It was possibly the finest performance of an English club ever in the Champions League, but ultimately City’s superiority was also the culmination of a club project the game has been building towards, the result of a financially staggered landscape.
“When the draw was Madrid, I said, ‘Yeah, I want it’,” said Pep Guardiola said.
“I had the feeling that we had one year ago in our stomach of what happened last season. I had the feeling these last days that we had a mix of calm and tension to play these type of games. Today everything went out of what we had – it was so painful last season. But during one year we showed how special a group of players these are.”
It was the perfect night for Pep and City and for the second time, the Abu Dhabi club will feature in the Champions League final. In the 2020-21 season, they lost 1-0 to Chelsea, but Guardiola’s team will be sky-high favourites against Inter Milan on June 10 in Istanbul. The Italians booked their place with a 3-0 victory against crosstown rivals AC Milan.
City can become the second club to win the treble after Manchester United in 1999. They are on the verge of winning the Premier League after rivals Arsenal faded badly in the past few weeks and will meet their crosstown rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final on June 3.
“We played against opposition who deserved to win tonight because they played with more intensity and real quality in the first half,” said Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. “They really paved the way to the final there. They were better than us today like we were last season. That can happen in a Champions League semi-final.”
“We didn’t manage to implement what we’d planned. It doesn’t have to be a drama. We have lost a game against superior opposition on the night. We can’t think the attitude wasn’t right for a Champions League semi-final. It’s just a step which means we have to try and be better next year.”
The defeat might spell the end of an era at the Bernabeu. Madrid’s midfield with veterans Luka Modric and Toni Kroos is in need of renewal, but Ancelotti, despite his words, might be heading for the exit as well. The Italian is being courted by the Brazilian FA, the CBF, who are keen to appoint the first foreign coach ever for the national team.
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