Manchester City cruised into their first-ever Uefa Champions League final as a Riyad Mahrez brace downed Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 on the night, and 4-1 on aggregate.
Mahrez added two more goals to his strike in the 2-1 first-leg victory in Paris as Man City ran out comfortable winners in Manchester against Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG, who were well beaten over 180 minutes.
Mahrez struck a goal in either half after well-worked City moves, and just like the first leg with Idrissa Gueye’s red card, PSG fell apart as Angel Di Maria saw red for a lunge on Fernandinho as tempers spilled over.
The comprehensive wins over PSG are vindication of Pep Guardiola’s bold decision to play without a recognised centre-forward in either tie, and the Catalan mastermind is now one win away from lifting the trophy he got his hands on three times at Barcelona – once as a player, and twice as a coach.
PSG were dealt a blow to their hopes of mounting a second-leg comeback even before the game kicked off: Kylian Mbappe was an injury doubt before the game, but was only fit enough for a place on the bench.
PSG thought they had won an early penalty as Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot for an apparent handball by an incredulous Oleksandr Zinchenko, but following a swift VAR review, it was clear the ball had hit the City left-back’s shoulder.
Zinchenko channelled that fury in the best possible way soon after, making a darting run onto a quarterback-esque long ball from goalkeeper Ederson in behind on the left. He teed up Kevin De Bruyne, whose deflected shot fell kindly for Mahrez to slide the ball underneath Keylor Navas to make it 3-1 on aggregate.
PSG immediately went in search of the two goals they always needed: Marquinhos – who scored in the first leg – headed off the bar, while Angel Di Maria somehow put wide after pinching possession with Ederson stranded.
City went into the interval two ahead on aggregate, though PSG still needed two away goals – but the fact that Mbappe didn’t come on at the interval spoke volumes about his fitness.
The likes of John Stones, Zinchenko and Ruben Dias made a number of stunning blocks to keep PSG at bay, and City ruthlessly picked off PSG on the counter as De Bruyne and Phil Foden worked the ball brillintly for Mahrez to slam home at the back post.
PSG knew the game was up when Angel Di Maria saw red for a senseless kick-out at Fernandinho over a throw-in, while the risk for City was that they would get drawn in and potentially see players suspended for the final.
Thankfully for Guardiola, his players kept their heads and can now dream of a final against either Chelsea or Real Madrid in Istanbul on May 29.