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Manchester City royally rout Real to cruise into Champions League final 

Manchester City royally rout Real to cruise into Champions League final 
Bernardo Silva of Manchester City celebrates scoring the first goal during the Uefa Champions League semi-final second leg match against Real Madrid at Etihad Stadium on 17 May, 2023. (Photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images)

The Citizens will meet Inter Milan in the 10 June final after thrashing defending champions Real Madrid 4-0 in their semi-final second leg on Wednesday. They won 5-1 on aggregate.

None of Manchester City’s players, including the substitutes, put a foot wrong in a magnificent Champions League demolition of Real Madrid on Wednesday, but one snapshot summed up a magical night at The Etihad Stadium.

City were already a Bernardo Silva goal to the good after a dominant 30 minutes when Real finally launched an attack.

Vinicius Jr, whose sensational goal had given Real the lead in last week’s first-leg 1-1 draw, looked like he had stolen a march on City right back Kyle Walker.

But Walker simply turned on the afterburners and left the Brazilian appearing to be walking on a treadmill.

The Etihad Stadium crowd rose to applaud Walker who turned his much-anticipated duel against Real’s dangerman into something akin to a stroll in the park.

It was the same all over the pitch as, man for man, City’s slickers put the 14-times European champions to the sword in the most ruthless fashion on the way to a 4-0 win. 

Karim Benzema, Real’s French goal machine and one of four starters for the Spaniards with five Champions League winners’ medals in his locker, spent the night in the pocket of City defenders John Stones or Ruben Dias.

Erling Haaland did not add to his 52 City goals this season, but terrorised Real’s defence and would have had a hat-trick but for three outstanding saves by Thibaut Courtois, the only Real player to emerge from a chastening evening with any credit.

Rodrygo, the man whose last-gasp goals broke City’s hearts in last year’s semi-final thriller, was anonymous against City’s Manuel Akanji and was eventually substituted.

And Luka Modric, Real’s majestic mastermind, was made to look every one of his 37 years as City’s midfield, anchored by the imperious Rodri, enjoyed complete domination.

Manchester City

John Stones (right) and Ruben Dias (left) celebrate the the final whistle after Manchester City beat Real Madrid 4-0 on the night and won 5-1 on aggregate. (Photo: Richard Callis/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Ready to deliver

For good measure, City manager Pep Guardiola, whose tactics had been found wanting in some of City’s Champions League disappointments down the years, including in the final two years ago against Chelsea, outfoxed the great Carlo Ancelotti.

The wily Italian had been in sight of a fifth Champions League trophy as a manager but his record 191st game in charge in the competition turned into a nightmare.

“Today, from minute one, we had the feeling the people were ready,” Guardiola, whose side are now three wins away from sealing a treble last achieved in 1999 by Manchester United, said. “I felt we were ready today to give a performance.

“I had the feeling these last days that we had a mix of calm and tension to play these type of games,” Guardiola told reporters.

“And after 10 or 15 minutes, I had the feeling that all the pain that we had, what happened last season . . . it was really tough, losing the way we lost and I think in the moment we had to swallow poison.

“(Tonight was) much, much better,” Guardiola said. “I felt, I don’t know why, you smelled that the team was ready to compete at the level that they competed today.”

City are three wins away from a treble as they play Manchester United in the FA Cup final on 3 June and could win the Premier League as early as Saturday. 

“We’re closer,” Guardiola said. “This season is really, really good, what we’ve really done already. The pleasure, the joy, how much we have fun this season again and again. We make happy our fans, all around the world watching us, they see a good team playing. This is the biggest compliment.”

Walker said that City have no ‘standout superstars’ — although you could argue Guardiola’s squad is simply overflowing with them.

Even when Haaland doesn’t score, someone else supplies the magic, be it Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva or, as was the case in the Premier League last weekend, Ilkay Gundogan.

“When we’re all together and playing — especially here — we just feel unstoppable,” said City’s England winger Jack Grealish.

Former Manchester united defender Rio Ferdinand could not hide his admiration for City’s display. “They have just destroyed, battered, pulverised a giant of European football,” he told BT Sport.

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City acknowledges the fans after his side’s stellar Champions League semi-final victory over Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium. (Photo: Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Madrid acknowledge they were second best

Courtois who saved his side from even worse humiliation, acknowledged City’s dominance.

“From the start we expected them to press and not let us play our way out with the ball. They pushed a lot of players up to keep us in our box,” Courtois said.

“Initially we managed it well, but we weren’t able to play our game, create chances or cause them danger. That allowed them to be even more comfortable.

‘Then in the 20th minute, they scored and it became increasingly difficult for us to get into the game.”

Ancelotti was also full of praise for Guardiola’s team while also congratulating his players after a tough season.

“They played better than us and deserved to win,” Ancelotti told reporters.

“They put a lot of pressure at the beginning, it worked out well for them because they made it very difficult for us to get the ball in play and they went two goals ahead.

“From then on, it was difficult to get back into the game. We tried in the second half… but it didn’t work out.”

Ancelotti admitted it was a painful night but said it was too soon to analyse what had gone wrong.

“Evaluating today, at this moment, makes no sense,” he said.

“It is a defeat that hurts, it hurts a lot. But it can happen. We reached the semi-finals of the Champions League against a strong opponent, they played better and left us without a final. We have to learn and for the next season, to be better.”

A year after winning a LaLiga and Champions League double, and becoming the first manager to capture titles in each of Europe’s top five leagues, Ancelotti was facing up to finishing the campaign with just a Spanish Cup and the Fifa Club World Cup to show for their efforts.

He did, however, set another record on Wednesday, becoming the coach with the most European Cup games (191), surpassing the mark set by former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

But with their rivals Barcelona crowned LaLiga champions last weekend with four-games to spare, Ancelotti was left searching for a silver lining.

“I think it was a good season. We have to show up in the few games we have ahead of us,” Ancelotti said.

“I think that reaching a Champions League semi-final is a success because only four teams make it to the last four.” Reuters/DM


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