Pep Guardiola – the emotional Manchester City coach – praised a journey that lasted “4 or 5” years after he saw his team qualify for the Champions League final with a 2-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
Riyad Mahrez’s early goal – at the “Al Ittihad” stadium – put the landlords in a good position in the confrontation, before the Algerian star added another goal in the second half to clinch his team’s 4-1 victory in the aggregate result in the semi-finals and qualified for the final for the first time in its history.
Despite all the local success that City achieved; Guardiola has never been able to surpass the 8th round in the Champions League since coming to England in 2016 before the current season, but he can now dream of adding another title to the two European titles he achieved with Barcelona.
“What we achieved in the semi-finals is amazing. The Champions League is the most difficult tournament and qualifying for the final is the most difficult thing we have achieved,” Guardiola said. “We deserve to be here because of everything we have achieved in this club in the last four or five years.”
Guardiola also said that the reception that his team received from the fans – as he headed to the stadium yesterday before the match – gave him a big boost.
“It was great to see that. The situation is different without them, we miss them a lot. It is strange to play in an empty stadium in such a big match. This achievement belongs to them,” the Spanish coach added.
City’s task became easier in the second half after Angel Di Maria was sent off on a disappointing night for the French champions.
Kylian Mbappe, the Paris Saint-Germain striker, was not fit enough to start the match and the effect of his absence was evident after the French club failed to hit any ball into the goal frame throughout the match, but coach Mauricio Pochettino played down the importance of the 22-year-old striker’s absence.
Pochettino said, “Mbappe’s absence cannot be an excuse, we are a collective team. It was a misfortune of course not to be ready to help the team … We cannot consider that an excuse because the team performed well.”
“I congratulate Manchester City for presenting a great season. After 6 or 7 seasons of work, Pep is doing well. At the same time, we are proud of our players and our team,” the Argentine coach added.