This quest was both his ” dream ” and his « obsession ». Saturday June 10, after his team’s victory in the Champions League final against Inter Milan, on the night of Istanbul, Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, relieved, could finally let his joy shine. Largely favorites on paper, his men won with difficulty against the Italians (1-0).
Twelve years later, here is again the Catalan technician on the roof of Europe. It is also the first time in its history that the team from the north of England have won the competition. The culmination of long and patient work for a team built with the colossal resources of the Abu Dhabi investment fund, which bought the club in 2008.
First in its group in the fall of 2022, Manchester City had produced several demonstrations during its journey to the Champions League final: a victory (7-0) against RB Leipzig in the round of 16, a success (3- 0) against Bayern Munich in the next round, before a real masterpiece, ahead of Real Madrid (4-0), defending champion, in the semi-finals.
Faced with Inter Milan, unexpected at this stage of the competition, the recent champion of England and winner of the National Cup therefore started as a big favorite. But it was a more uncertain scenario than expected that unfolded at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, the scene of a second Champions League final, eighteen years after the memorable 2005 edition won by Liverpool against AC Milan.
“In recent years, we have been so close”
For an hour, this match looked like a game of chess, where Pep Guardiola’s armada was contained by the oiled defensive organization of Simone Inzaghi’s team. At half-time, the score was still blank, with only three shots on target attempted in total by the two teams. Victim of a muscle injury during a defensive withdrawal, the Belgian Kevin de Bruyne, offensive centerpiece of the Citizens, had to give up his place from the 36e minute.
Feverish during the first act with several missed clearances, the Brazilian goalkeeper of Manchester City, Ederson, was going to be decisive in the second half. He first prevented Lautaro Martinez from opening the scoring for Inter shortly before the hour mark. Ten minutes later, it was on the contrary Rodri who took over a cross from Bernardo Silva, giving Manchester City the advantage (1-0, 68e).
Immediate reaction of the Nerazzurri : A lobed header from Federico Dimarco found the crossbar. Inter kept pushing and the fans were ready to celebrate the equaliser, but Ederson made a reflex save to counter a header from Romelu Lukaku (88e), before a final parade after added time (96e) in front of an attempt by Robin Gosens.
“It was a game with a lot of pressure, we were a little nervous. In the first half, we didn’t play well. In the second we started well but then we gave opportunities to Milan. They too are good, they deserved to come here”reacted the Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva at the microphone of Canal +.
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“In recent years, we have been so close”said striker Rodri, referring to a lost final against Chelsea in 2021 and a confusing semi-final against Real Madrid in 2022. In Istanbul, his team did not put in a great performance, but this victory is an historic hat-trick days after the FA Cup victory and league title celebrations.