Man City outclass Real Madrid to reach Champions League final

Published May 18, 2023
Soccer Football - Champions League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Manchester City v Real Madrid - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - May 17, 2023 Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Bernardo Silva Action. — Reuters
Soccer Football - Champions League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Manchester City v Real Madrid - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - May 17, 2023 Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Bernardo Silva Action. — Reuters

Manchester City marched into the Champions League final for the second time in three seasons after outclassing holders Real Madrid 4-0 for a 5-1 aggregate victory at a raucous Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Bernardo Silva’s first-half double put City in control against the 14-time European champions, while an own goal by Eder Militao after the break and a late fourth from Julian Alvarez sealed the deal for Pep Guardiola’s side as they avenged last year’s bitter semi-final loss.

With Inter Milan awaiting in the final, City will now be huge favourites to finally deliver the trophy Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour has craved since buying the club in 2008, having lost to Chelsea two years ago.

City are now unbeaten in 26 home matches in the competition and that run was never in danger once Portuguese midfielder Silva whipped a shot past Thibaut Courtois in the 23rd minute and then headed his side’s second in the 37th.

The second half was almost a formality as holders Real, bidding to win the trophy for a sixth time in 10 seasons, were outplayed by a relentless City side closing in on a treble.

And there was no way back for Carlo Ancelotti’s team when Kevin De Bruyne’s free-kick flicked off Militao in the 76th minute.

Alvarez put the icing on the cake of a memorable night for City with a clinical finish after coming on as a late replacement for Erling Haaland.

There was an air of expectancy and tension before kickoff inside City’s fortress, even more so as the clash was billed as a de-facto final with Inter, in their first final for 13 years despite a mediocre Serie A season, awaiting the winners.

The lineups were almost identical to the sizzling 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu last week, the only change being in Real’s rearguard with Militao in for Antonio Rudiger.

Just as in the Spanish capital, City took an early stranglehold with Real barely stringing two passes together and finding it almost impossible to escape their own half.

Twice inside the opening 20 minutes Real keeper Thibaut Courtois rescued his side with saves from point-blank Haaland headers, the first a little lucky, the second miraculous.

City’s pressure was relentless though and the breakthrough was not long coming with Silva whipping a left-footed shot past Courtois from the right edge of the penalty area — City’s eighth goal attempt in the opening 23 minutes.

It took Real half an hour to even mount an attack and even then, City’s Kyle Walker won a sprint race with Vinicius Jr to snuff out the danger.

Toni Kroos, one of five current Real players to win the trophy five times with the Spanish club, then unleashed a dipping right-foot shot that City keeper Ederson, who had been a spectator, touched against the crossbar.

A one-goal advantage was always going to be dangerous against Real’s serial winners, but Silva made sure City reached halftime with one foot in the final, reacting quickest to loop a header into the net after Ilkay Gundogan’s shot was saved.

City toyed with the 14-times champions for the rest of the half and could have been further ahead.

Real needed some magic to give themselves any hope and it almost arrived six minutes after halftime when David Alaba’s dipping free kick was acrobatically saved by Ederson.

Courtois did his best to keep Ancelotti’s side in the tie with yet another save from Haaland as the Norwegian was left waiting for his 53rd goal of an incredible season.

But any thoughts of a repeat of last year’s miraculous turnaround when Real won 6-5 on aggregate were banished when De Bruyne’s whipped free-kick glanced off Militao and into the net.

Alvarez then stroked first-time into the bottom corner in stoppage time.

With their place in the Istanbul showpiece secured, City can win their fifth Premier League title in six seasons this weekend and they also have an FA Cup final to look forward to.

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