Manchester City achieved an impressive victory over Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday, leading them within three games of making history and securing a treble of trophies. Manchester City’s Swiss defender Manuel Akanji (L) celebrates scoring the team’s third goal with Manchester City’s Norwegian striker Erling Haaland during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final vs Real Madrid(AFP)
Guardiola stated after the 4-0 win at the Etihad Stadium, “We are there. We can think about it, can visualize it.”
Madrid’s legendary kings of Europe, after scoring a draw of 1-1, were humiliated and realistically, if it wasn’t for the valiant efforts of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, the score line would have been a lot worse for 14-time champions.
City has closed in on the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup titles and it is too hot for Madrid to handle as Bernardo Silva scored twice in the first half, Eder Militao scored an own goal after the break and substitute Julian Alvarez struck in time added on to seal a 5-1 aggregate win.
Madrid fought battles and came back from the brink on numerous occasions over the past two seasons, but City was too much of a challenge this time around. After overrunning the defending European champions, City will be favored to do the same against Inter Milan in the final in Istanbul on June 10.
Following a victory against Chelsea on Sunday, City will secure a third straight league title, and Manchester United is in the way of the FA Cup final. United is the only English team to win the three main trophies in one season, which they did in 1999.
City is already the dominant force in English soccer, overtaking their Manchester rival. They can now also emulate one of their greatest achievements.
“We are close and of course we are going to try,” said Guardiola.
Guardiola and his team are going in search of their first Champions League title, while Guardiola is aiming to win it for the third time as a coach. At times, it seemed as though the pressure on Europe’s biggest stage was too big for a team that has been perpetual winners in domestic competition. The temperament of City in the Champions League has been in question, as they have fallen short when it mattered on numerous occasions losing to teams like Monaco, Lyon and Tottenham.
It was unlikely that they would fall short in this occasion, as City was determined to lift the one trophy that has eluded them and finally provided evidence that they are ready to win it.
“It was really tough to lose the way we lose and I think we had to swallow poison. Football always gives you another chance,” Guardiola said.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti had previously described Madrid as having a “special power to stay alive” but conceded that City “played with more intensity, more quality up front and they took their chances. They were better than us today, we were better last year.”
Having been dominated by Madrid in the first leg last week, City was back in command against Real Madrid. The crowd was lively, cheering City on with every challenge it faced. In the 23rd minute, Bernardo raced onto Kevin de Bruyne’s pass and fired in at the near post, causing the stadium to erupt. Bernardo scored again in the 37th from a rebound beyond Militao on the line, making it 2-0. Haaland had the opportunity to kill the game but failed to score after being one-on-one with Courtois in the 73rd minute.
City scored its third after Militao accidentally diverted De Bruyne’s free kick into his own net. The crowd was already in a celebratory mood and was given one more goal to cheer when Alvarez launched into the box and slid a shot past Courtois in stoppage time.
Guardiola has won the Champions League twice with Barcelona but has failed to win it since, with Bayern Munich and City. This is only his second final since his last win, having lost to Chelsea in 2021.
“It’s a beautiful night for us,” said Bernardo. “We knew it was going to be tough, but to beat this Madrid team 4-0 at home it was wonderful . . . a wonderful feeling to be in the final again, and hopefully, this time, we can try to win it.”