From back to front, City made the Spanish giants look mediocre in the 4-0 win which fetched a Champions League final berth.
To the fading strains of ‘Hey Jude’, blue and white streamers dropped wispily like light rain. That was how Manchester City welcomed the global television audience on this inky Champions League semi-final night. One that ended with the stadium’s giant screen flashing Istanbul.
After a dismantling, clinical and classy in equal measure, of defending champions Real Madrid who lost 0-4 on Wednesday and 1-5 on aggregate, that is where Manchester City are headed to play Inter Milan in the final. Pep Guardiola had said he didn’t like Jack Grealish’s comment last week that City would be “unstoppable” at home. Yet, as disclosed by Rio Ferdinand on social media, the City manager had sent a text to the former Manchester United defender that they would win.
Unbeaten in 26 home games in Europe, in 23 consecutive games in all competitions in 2022-23, winners of the Premier League five times in the last six seasons and with the chance to be the first English team to win the treble (league, cup and the continent) since Manchester United in 1998-99, it almost beggars belief that Manchester City are yet to win the Champions League. Monaco, Lyon, Tottenham Hotspur, Paris St-Germain, Chelsea had surprised them and in 2021-22, a Real Madrid heist had denied them at this stage.
For one year, they felt the pain, Guardiola told reporters afterward. It felt like they had swallowed poison, he said. Early goals from Bernardo Silva and two more in the final quarter from Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez assuaged the hurt.
By then, Guardiola had seen it coming. “After 10 or 15 minutes I had the feeling that all the pain we had in one season, one year, what happened last season, was there today,” he said.
For one minute after kick-off, Real Madrid had not got the ball. They knew it would happen but maybe not to the extent that it did. After 15 minutes, as per UEFA, Real had 13 passes, City 124. When Silva scored the first goal, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Jr had not completed a pass. By then, City had played 202 passes, Real 28.