Manchester City have reached the final of the Champions League for the second time in their history. Pep Guardiola’s side have overcome the traumatic, come-from-behind defeat they suffered to the same opponents at this stage last season. A 4-0 win on the night was enough to hand the Cityzens a 5-1 aggregate win. City have booked their place opposite Inter Milan in Istanbul for the final on 10th June.
European champions don’t usually get outclassed like Real Madrid did in the first half here. Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan passed around the Los Blancos midfield like they weren’t there. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos looked older with every missed interception.
Were it not for Thibaut Courtois, this would have been a massacre by half time. The ex-Chelsea goalkeeper kept Erling Haaland out when he glanced a Grealish cross towards him. As if that fine reaction stop wasn’t enough, Courtois pulled off one of the saves of the season when Haaland tried again, powering a Manuel Akanji header towards the Belgian’s net. A truly jaw-dropping performance.
Normally you would say it’ll take something really special to beat a keeper on this sort of form. But it didn’t really. When it came it was more a product of lapsed defending as De Bruyne found Bernardo Silva in acres of space in the penalty area. He leathered his shot, ensuring there was no magic Courtois could wreak on the ball this time.
Madrid did enjoy one moment that made you wonder, just for a second, if they were about to reach for the miracle they always find in this competition. Out of nothing, Kroos got past Grealish and fired a shot from distance that clattered City’s crossbar. Alas, no moment of illuminative genius this time. Some hit, though.
No, it was City who would score next. Grealish found Gundogan, whose deflected pass looped up and into the path of Bernardo once more. Again, the Portugal international hit it with another power to take the colour off the ball. Nobody was willing to risk another Courtois super-save.
The Portuguese star bags his second of the night! 🤩
Real’s travelling support did have a reason to get out of their seats as the second half dawned. A well-struck David Alaba free kick drew an excellent save from Ederson. Even in a game where they barely had a kick, Madrid were still dangerous.
But City remained the most potent force on the pitch. De Bruyne in particular was pulling the strings and he nearly teed up Bernardo for his hat-trick. A marauding run ended with the midfielder slotting the ball through for Silva, but Dani Carvajal snuffed out the danger.
The only surprise in City’s dominance came when Haaland failed to add his inevitable 53rd Man City goal. Breaking through the sleeping Madrid defence, another simply outstanding Courtois save tipped the ball onto the crossbar. An unbelievable stop on a night in which the goalkeeper deserved more than his teammates gave him.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, a De Bruyne free kick was turned towards goal by Manuel Akanji, with Eder Militao getting the final touch. Real manager Carlo Ancelotti and his team complained to the official wanting it chalked off via VAR but the goal was given and the contest was near enough over.
But this City team don’t do things quietly. They win with big, loud bombast. Julian Alvarez, their luxury World Cup winner, added a fourth in injury time to cap off a historic night. Substitute Phil Foden slotted the ball into his path elegantly before the Argentina international applied the finish.
A year ago, Madrid found a way past this team. A shade less than a year ago, they beat the Liverpool team that have been City’s great recent rivals in the final. That was surely not the death rattle of the highest-achieving club in the history of this competition. But it is hard to envisage a quick way back to the top of the European heap for Los Blancos. Not if City have anything to do with it.