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Guardiola reacts as Mahrez brace steers Man City to first ever Champions League final

Manchester City booked their place in a first-ever Champions League final as a Riyad Mahrez brace earned a 2-0 win over Paris Saint Germain for the English champions-elect.

PSG started the game well, passing it around confidently on what was a snowy pitch in East Manchester, with referee Bjorn Kuipers being forced to overturn his decision to award the Parisians an early penalty after replays showed the ball had struck the shoulder of Oleksandr Zinchenko as opposed to his arm.

The visitors – in need of at least two goals on the night following their 2-1 loss last week – pressed high, though they would be exploited by the rapier-like passing of Man City ‘keeper Ederson, the Brazilian launching a ball forward with his trademark pinpoint accuracy towards Zincheko. The Ukrainian chased the ball down the left touchline before pulling it back to Kevin de Bruyne on the edge of the box, his blocked effort falling perfectly to Riyad Mahrez who slipped it underneath Keylor Navas.

Last season’s beaten finalists would continue to create chances, Marquinhos seeing a header come back off the bar while Angel di Maria drilled an effort agonisingly wide from distance with the goal at his mercy following a City error.

PSG would keep probing in the second half, with City being forced into a number of superb defensive blocks, though the Premier League side would score a second with a slick counter-attack in the 63rd minute. Phil Foden scampered away down the left, exchanged passes with Kevin de Bruyne, before the City academy graduate rolled the ball across the area to the waiting Mahrez who blasted past Navas from close range.

Having seen Idrissa Gana Gueye sent off in the first leg, former Manchester United winger Di Maria would suffer the same fate with 21 minutes to play, the Argentine getting frustrated and lashing out with a petulant kick out at Fernandinho at a throw in.

With a man extra, City comfortably saw the game out, and while PSG ended the game with more possession and more attempts, they failed to get a single shot on target – such was City’s excellent defensive display.

The result saw Man City reach a first European final in 51 years since they lifted the European Cup Winners Cup back in 1970, while it also ended Pep Guardiola’s 10 year wait to feature in the showpiece event, and speaking afterwards the two-time winner said he was ‘incredibly proud’.

“It is for all of us and the club,” he told BT Sport. “I’m incredibly proud and my first thoughts are with the players who didn’t play today. They all deserved to play, everyone has made a contribution and now it is time to enjoy it. We have to win the league and we have two or three weeks to prepare for the final.”

Speaking about the game itself, he said: “They put a lot of players in the middle and we struggled a lot in the first half to high press and we changed at half-time. We recovered the ball better in the second half and we were much better in the way we played and 4-1 on aggregate against a team that beat Barcelona and Bayern Munich and it means a lot to us.

“They win every year the league, they are a team built to win, they fought to the end. They a huge team but we were so so composed. We fought together and we’re in the final of the Champions League and those are nice words.”

Reminded of his record in the Champions League, the Catalan was keen to point out the small margins that often are so decisive in knockout football.

“People believe it’s easy to arrive in the final of the Champions League. Getting to the final now makes sense of what we have done in the past four or five years. Every day these guys have been consistent and this is remarkable. We scored a goal through the hips in the first game, and today Marquinhos hit the bar in the first half – you can be out for little details.

“United won a title because of John Terry’s slip and in the last minute against Bayern Munich and Real won a title against Atletico in the 93 minute. It’s a competition that is so difficult and something in the stars is involved in that.”

Next up for City is a repeat of the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, with a win over Thomas Tuchel’s side that would confirm their status as league champions, while they could face the Londoners in Istanbul with the Blues’ semi-final currently tied 1-1 with Real Madrid.

Read – Man City v PSG – Combined XI

See also – Iconic Performances: Petr Cech’s heroic showing in the 2012 UCL final

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