Pep Guardiola said Manchester City’s first ever Champions League final had been five years in the making after Riyad Mahrez’s double saw off Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 on Tuesday to seal a 4-1 semi-final aggregate win.
City will look to set the seal on a third Premier League title in the past four seasons in the coming days as they remain on course for a treble, having already lifted the League Cup.
But their previous four Champions League campaigns under Guardiola ended in anguish before the semi-final stage.
Guardiola has won the competition twice before as a coach during his time at Barcelona.
However, the Catalan has also endured a decade of disappointment in Europe’s premier club competition since.
“It is for all of us and the club. I’m incredibly proud,” said Guardiola. “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.”
Mahrez’s goal also decided the first leg and the Algerian, who grew up in the Parisian suburbs, haunted his home town team again with two clinical finishes early in each half.
The final in Istanbul on May 29 against Real Madrid or Chelsea is the culmination of City’s rise since an Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 transformed the club’s fortunes.
Meanwhile, four years on from making Neymar and Kylian Mbappe the world’s two most expensive players, PSG’s wait for a first Champions League title goes on.
Mbappe could only watch on from the stands due to a calf injury as, just like in last week’s first leg, his side imploded after an excellent first-half performance.
The visitors were left to rue huge missed chances by Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria in between Mahrez’s strikes before Di Maria lashed out at Fernandinho to leave PSG down to 10 men for the final 20 minutes.
“We started really well, creating chances and dominating Manchester City,” said PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino. “That’s not easy. Not many teams can dominate a team like Manchester City.”
However, the Argentine, who had to come onto the pitch to calm his players after Di Maria saw red, admitted his side’s indiscipline had cost them.
Idrissa Gueye was also sent off late in the first leg for a shocking challenge on Ilkay Gundogan.
“Over the 180 minutes, for 40 or 45 minutes we played with 10 men,” added Pochettino. “That’s a massive advantage.”
The French champions thought they had an early penalty to get back in the tie when Oleksandr Zinchenko was penalised for handball.
However, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers rightly reversed his initial decision on seeing a replay of the ball bouncing off the Ukrainian’s shoulder.
Zinchenko was heavily involved again when the opening goal arrived at the other end.
He raced onto City goalkeeper Ederson’s thunderous long pass into the PSG area. Zinchenko’s cut-back found Kevin De Bruyne and after the Belgian’s shot was blocked, Mahrez pounced to slot home on his weaker right foot.
The tie was still far from over as PSG penned City back and should have been at least level on the night before half-time.
Marquinhos has made a habit of scoring big Champions League goals and the Brazilian was inches away from another when his looping header came back off the crossbar.
Ederson then nearly undid his good work as Di Maria intercepted his hurried throw to Bernardo Silva and flashed a shot inches wide with the Brazilian ‘keeper stranded outside his goal.
Pochettino will wonder what could have been had Mbappe been fit with his replacement Icardi ineffective.
Neymar only ever showed flashes of his brilliance with City’s impressive defence led by Ruben Dias able to focus on stopping the Brazilian without Mbappe to worry about.
Guardiola’s men have always shown enough quality going forward and a clinical counter-attack killed off the tie on 63 minutes.
De Bruyne freed Phil Foden down the left and his inch-perfect cross was blasted high past Keylor Navas by Mahrez.
In a repeat of the first leg, PSG’s discipline went with their hopes of reaching the final.
Di Maria needlessly stamped on Fernandinho to be shown a straight red card before Marco Verratti was lucky to escape seeing a second yellow.
“They lost their nerve and started to kick us,” said Mahrez, rubbing salt in PSG wounds. “After the red card it was good for us.”
Manchester City found their shooting boots as Riyad Mahrez scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing of Burnley to bounce back to winning ways in the Premier League.
Pep Guardiola’s men had scored just seven goals in their previous seven league games to slip to 14th in the table before kick-off.
But for the fourth straight visit to the Etihad, Burnley conceded five times as City eased to within six points of league leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
Mahrez was one of four changes Guardiola made from a 1-0 win at Olympiakos in midweek that booked City’s place in the last 16 of the Champions League, and took the most of his chance to start with Raheem Sterling left on the bench.
The Algerian opened the floodgates on six minutes as he swept home Kevin De Bruyne’s pass.
Mahrez then outwitted a sleeping Burnley defence as he latched onto Kyle Walker’s throw-in before dancing round three challenges and firing on off the far post.
De Bruyne was handed a rare rest in midweek and the Belgian was back to his best with another assist for Benjamin Mendy to score his first City goal over three years since arriving from Monaco.
The French left-back produced an exquisite finish by cushioning De Bruyne’s cross back across Bailey Peacock-Farrell, who had a Premier League debut to forget in the absence of England international Nick Pope.
After City’s struggles to score goals in recent weeks, the hosts made sure to cash in after the break rather than saving their energies for a hectic upcoming schedule.
Ferran Torres has been prolific in the Champions League since his signing from Valencia, but the Spanish international finally opened his Premier League account with a smart finish from Gabriel Jesus’s lay-off.
Torres was then replaced by Phil Foden and with his first touch Foden was the provider for Mahrez to complete his hat-trick in uncharacteristic fashion with a bullet header at the back post.
VAR came to Peacock-Farrell’s rescue after he turned the ball into his own net after a fine save to deny Jesus, with the goal ruled out for offside against the Brazilian striker, before De Bruyne smashed against the post late on.
However, five goals were enough for Guardiola’s men to send out the message they are not out of a wide-open title race, especially with a favourable run of fixtures to come as Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle will also visit the Etihad before Boxing Day.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took the honours among the African stars in Europe at the weekend, scoring twice as Arsenal edged Everton 3-2 in an English Premier League thriller.
The brace from the 30-year-old Gabon star increased his league tally this season to 17, level with Jamie Vardy of Leicester City at the top of the scoring charts.
A brilliant pass from Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez against former club Leicester City set up Gabriel Jesus to score the match-winner for Manchester City.
PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal)
Striker Aubameyang was in predatory form as his brace fired Arsenal to a 3-2 victory over Everton at the Emirates Stadium. The 30-year-old netted Arsenal’s second goal to put them 2-1 in front when he sprinted on to David Luiz’s pass and fired into the far corner in the 33rd minute. After Richarlison equalised on the stroke of half-time, Aubameyang struck again 26 seconds into the second half with a glancing header from Ivorian Nicolas Pepe’s cross.
RIYAD MAHREZ (Manchester City)
The winger provided a moment of magic to help Manchester City to their single-goal victory against Leicester. With Pep Guardiola’s side labouring to break down the stubborn hosts at the King Power Stadium, it was Mahrez who found a way to prise open their defence. Surging forward from midfield, Mahrez weighed up his options in an instant and slipped a perfectly-timed pass to Jesus, who buried the 80th-minute winner that moved second-place City seven points clear of third-place Leicester.
WILFRIED ZAHA (Crystal Palace)
The Ivory Coast forward was involved in a flash-point that saw Newcastle’s Valentino Lazaro sent off in Crystal Palace’s 1-0 win over Newcastle. Patrick van Aanholt’s superb first-half free-kick had put Roy Hodgson’s side on course for their first win of 2020, but the points were not secure until deep into stoppage time when Zaha burst through on goal and was hauled down by Lazaro, who was shown a straight red card.
ACHRAF HAKIMI (Borussia Dortmund)
Real Madrid loanee Hakimi was one of Dortmund’s young guns to shine in a 2-0 win at Werder Bremen, proving constantly dangerous on the right wing. The Moroccan’s pass for Erling Braut Haaland’s goal marked his 10th assist of the season.
CHRISTOPHER ANTWI-ADJEI (Paderborn)
Antwi-Adjei, who was born in Germany but represents Ghana at international level, won the ball back and carried it upfield in the lead-up to Sven Michel’s equaliser in the 75th minute against Bayern Munich. Despite picking up a late yellow card, Antwi-Adjei was impressive throughout in his side’s 3-2 loss to the German champions.
STRELI MAMBA (Paderborn)
Paderborn forward Mamba, who has scored five goals so far this campaign, thought he had a sixth in the fourth minute his side’s defeat at Bayern when he slid the ball under Manuel Neuer, but his goal was ruled offside. The Germany-born player, who has roots in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had another clear chance in the 50th minute but was unable to connect with a lofted cross, injuring his knee in the process.
STEPHANE BAHOKEN (Angers)
Cameroon striker Bahoken came off the bench in the second half and needed only a minute to score the only goal of the game as Angers beat Montpellier 1-0 to record their first league win of 2020. It was just a third league goal of the campaign for the 27-year-old, who netted 11 times last season.
M’BAYE NIANG (Rennes)
The France-born Senegal forward was recalled to the Rennes team for their home clash with Nimes and marked the occasion by scoring twice as the Brittany side came from behind to win 2-1. Niang headed the winning goal in the 89th minute and the result allowed Rennes to reclaim third place in the table as they fight to qualify for the Champions League for the first time. Niang is also now on 10 league goals for the season.
HABIB DIALLO (Metz)
Senegal forward Diallo has been outstanding for Metz this season, wearing the captain’s armband and scoring 12 times for a team fighting to avoid relegation. However, he was sent off late on in his side’s 2-0 defeat by Lyon, receiving a straight red card for hitting out at opposition defender Marcal. He now faces a suspension for upcoming games, with his club hovering just above the bottom three in Ligue 1.
Riyad Mahrez will be pushing for a starting place in Pep Guardiola’s line-up against Brighton as Manchester City’s club record-signing continues to adapt to life at Eastlands.
The Algeria winger, signed for £60 million ($79 million, 67 million euros) from Leicester in pre-season, has made a relatively subdued start to life with the Premier League champions.
Mahrez has started just two of City’s six league games to date, despite the absence of playmaker Kevin De Bruyne who is expected to be out for a further two months with a knee ligament injury.
Guardiola has spoken of players needing time to adapt to his demanding style of play and, in the case of Mahrez, there has also been the upheaval of joining a new club.
But after scoring twice after coming off the bench in last weekend’s emphatic 5-0 victory at Cardiff — his first goals since moving to City – Mahrez insisted he is finally becoming accustomed to Guardiola’s unique demands.
“The manager has helped me a lot, and in the last two weeks, I have felt a lot better,” said Mahrez, 27.
“You can see that on the pitch. I never complain, I just work hard in training, and it’s paying off now. But I have to keep going –- scoring is not a final thing.”
Mahrez is not the first senior City player to have struggled, at first, with Guardiola’s intense approach to the game in which players have to pull their weight defensively, whatever their attacking talents.
Most famously, the club’s legendary record goalscorer Sergio Aguero has spoken openly of how it took his time to adapt his own game after Guardiola took over at the Etihad.
But with Mahrez starting, and scoring again, in the 3-0 midweek League Cup victory at Oxford United, it would appear the former Leicester star is winning that particular personal battle.
Guardiola offered an insight into that process of adjustment when, following the recent victory, he spoke about in-form Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva who has started this campaign brilliantly after struggling at times last season.
‘Need more time’
And the City manager expects Mahrez to respond in the same way.
“In the beginning, it was a little bit difficult,” said Guardiola. “Bernardo came from France to England and, even for me, I needed a period to know, to understand a little bit about the way we wanted to play and in the way that we are aggressive without the ball. Sometimes we need more time.
“It has happened a little bit with Riyad. It is going to happen in the future. Riyad is going to come back the same as we saw with Leicester, or with Bernardo right now.”
The Catalan boss added: “And that is why I like to work with these kinds of players. They always try their best. For 60, 90, 20 minutes — all the time they play with the smile and for him and the team.”
Mahrez may yet be reduced to starting the weekend game with Brighton on the bench, given the strength in depth Guardiola has at his disposal.
And even though Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz impressed in the victory over Oxford, the City manager has shown little appetite for giving such youngsters extended minutes in the Premier League.
Man City will be looking to maintain a strong start to their title defense in which a draw at Wolves represents the only point they have dropped thus far this term.
Guardiola’s major decision would appear to revolve around the left-back position, given France international Benjamin Mendy is currently sidelined with a metatarsal injury.
As he did last season, Fabian Delph has deputized in that position but was unimpressive in the recent Champions League loss to Lyon and Brazilian Danilo, who started against Oxford after recovering from early-season injury, may be selected instead.
Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — the last three African Footballers of the Year — were among the scorers in the major European leagues at the weekend.
Egyptian Salah netted for the seventh consecutive match as Liverpool beat Newcastle 2-0 and Algerian Mahrez struck late to snatch a 1-1 draw for Leicester against Bournemouth
Gabonese Aubameyang scored for Arsenal, but could not prevent a 2-1 Premier League loss at Brighton.
MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)
Scored his 32nd goal of a remarkable season as he grabbed the opener in Liverpool’s eventual 2-0 win at home to Newcastle. Controlling a pass from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, he shot powerfully through the legs of Magpies goalkeeper Martin Dubravka with his left.
RIYAD MAHREZ (Leicester)
His season threatened to become known solely for the breakdown of a move from Leicester, the 2016 champions, to champions-elect Manchester City, but the playmaker reminded Foxes fans of his quality as a footballer courtesy of a stunning equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth. In the seventh minute of injury-time and from 25 yards out, Mahrez curled a free-kick around the wall and beyond keeper Asmir Begovic to score a sublime goal.
JORDAN AYEW (Swansea)
Together with his brother Andre, he gave the defence of West Ham — Andre’s former club — a torrid time as Swansea swept their visitors from London aside to win 4-1 in south Wales. It was Andre’s first start since his $25 million (20 million euros) move back to the Liberty Stadium and the Ghanaians completed a memorable afternoon’s work when Andre won a penalty that Jordan converted for the Swans’ fourth goal.
VICTOR MOSES (Chelsea)
Had the misfortune to be run ragged by Leroy Sane as Manchester City extended their lead at the top of the table to 18 points with a 1-0 win over Chelsea. One consolation for Nigeria wing-back Moses is that he’s unlikely to have to mark anyone else in Sane’s class during the rest of the Premier League season.
NORDIN AMRABAT (Leganes)
The 30-year-old Dutch-born Amrabat scored Leganes’s second goal in the 2-0 home win over bottom club Malaga in the 62nd minute. He had been booked in the first half of the match against a team where he spent the 2015-2016 season. The Moroccan international is on loan from Watford.
LEON BALOGUN (Mainz)
Mainz had Nigeria defender Balogun sent off for a second yellow card in a 0-0 draw at Hamburg when he fouled Luca Waldschmidt in the area on 61 minutes. The referee pointed to the spot, but the weak kick was saved by goalkeeper Florian Mueller on his Bundesliga debut.
NABY KEITA (RB Leipzig)
Leipzig took the lead when Liverpool-bound Guinean Keita, back after a thigh injury, played a pass through Borussia Dortmund’s defence which Jean-Kevin Augustin tucked away on 29 minutes. Germany winger Marco Reus equalised just before the break.
WAHBI KHAZRI/ISMAILA SARR (Rennes)
The Tunisia playmaker scored for the third game in a row as Rennes climbed to fifth courtesy of a 2-0 win at Amiens. Moments after rattling the crossbar with a first-half free-kick, Khazri latched onto a long punt upfield and slotted away his team-leading ninth goal of the season via a healthy deflection. Senegalese forward Ismaila Sarr then sealed a victory for Rennes four minutes from the end.
Riyad Mahrez will not be included in Leicester City boss Claude Puel’s squad for the visit of Swansea City as the Algerian’s standoff with the Foxes for their refusal to entertain a deadline day bid from Manchester City rumbles on.
Mahrez has not trained since City’s withdrew their interest on Wednesday’s due to Leicester’s demands.
“Riyad is not available for this game,” Puel told a news conference on Friday.
“All I can say about the situation is that this is the best decision for Leicester, in the best interests of Leicester. It is also the best decision for Riyad.
“It is a tough situation for us to manage but now it is time to move on and keep our focus.”
It is not the first time that Mahrez, who played a huge role in inspiring Leicester’s remarkable 2015/16 Premier League triumph, has tried to force his way out at the King Power.
However, Puel is hopeful the 26-year-old can return for the remainder of the season having also played a big part in Leicester’s upturn in fortunes since the French coach replaced Craig Shakespeare in October.
“I hope he can come back with us. He is an important player for us, of course,” added Puel.
“He can come back to the team and we need to stay united. It is difficult to manage but it will stay inside the club. We need to move forward and focus on football.
“We can’t change anything about the situation. We needs to find again a good feeling and help him come back with a positive attitude to enjoy his football.”
Reports suggest City were willing to offer £50 million ($71 million, 57 million euros) plus a player they valued at £15 million to land Mahrez.
But the Foxes asking price was closer to £80 million cash which the Premier League leaders were not willing to pay.
Mahrez joined Leicester for just £350,000 from French side Le Havre in 2014.
Leicester City manager Craig Shakespeare admitted the club may have to accept Riyad Mahrez will leave this summer.
The Algerian midfielder has been linked with a move abroad or to another Premier League club, but reminded Leicester fans of his worth with a goal as his side beat West Brom on penalties in a pre-season friendly in Hong Kong.
Speaking at a news conference after the match, Shakespeare said he was aware of the speculation around Mahrez, and the club would have to deal with what ever happened.
“I don’t think it’s just tonight. I know what Riyad Mahrez can do. We all know that. We know the situation. And we’ve all got to deal with it. And I’ve stated before, Riyad , since his return, has been very professional in his attitude and I expect that to continue,” he said.
Leicester progressed to the final where they will play Liverpool, winning 7-6 on spot kicks after a 1-1 draw in normal time.