ISTANBUL: Manchester City tasted Champions League glory at last on Saturday as a second-half Rodri strike gave the favorites a 1-0 victory over Inter Milan in a tense final, allowing Pep Guardiola’s side to complete a remarkable treble.
Having already claimed a fifth Premier League title in six seasons, and added the FA Cup, City are the first English club to win such a treble since Manchester United in 1999.
That same month 24 years ago, City won the English third-tier play-off final on penalties against Gillingham.
Now they have established themselves as England’s dominant side and have finally added the biggest prize in European club football, two years after losing to Chelsea in their first final.
The match was watched by owner Sheikh Mansour, who made a very rare appearance at a City game as his team capped their rise from also-rans to superpower in the years since he bought the club in 2008.
Guardiola’s third title
Twelve years after last lifting the trophy with Barcelona, meanwhile, Guardiola joins an elite club of coaches to have won the Champions League three times. Yet having brushed aside RB Leipzig, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid to reach the final, City did not have it easy against Inter, who saw Federico Dimarco and substitute Romelu Lukaku both almost equalize late on.
Inter had hoped to spring a surprise and lift the trophy for the fourth time. It was not to be, but Simone Inzaghi’s side will be back in the competition again next season. Victory for Guardiola’s men, to go with the three titles of rivals United, means Manchester becomes just the second city to produce two different winners of the competition, after Milan.
The occasion did not match the drama of the last Champions League final held at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium. Liverpool triumphed here in 2005, recovering from a three-goal deficit against AC Milan to draw 3-3 before winning on penalties. However, it also passed off without serious incident, a year after chaos overshadowed the final at the Stade de France in Paris, even if the stadium’s location some 25 kilometers west of central Istanbul did not make access simple for supporters.
De Bruyne comes off hurt
City, with Nathan Ake starting ahead of Kyle Walker in defense, expected Inter to come out and attempt to thwart them, and the first half went according to plan for the Italians. They pressed and snapped at City’s heels, although the best chance fell to Guardiola’s men when De Bruyne set up Haaland for an effort that was well saved by Andre Onana.
City were then dealt a major blow as De Bruyne — who came off hurt in the 2021 final — departed with an apparent leg injury on 36 minutes, to be replaced by Phil Foden. It was just as the prospect of extra time, and a final going on past midnight, that the game opened up. Lautaro Martinez could not take a chance that was gifted to him by a poor Silva ball back towards his own goal, and City then struck on 68 minutes.
Manuel Akanji’s pass found Silva in the box and his cutback came off an Inter defender before falling for Rodri to fire in. It was a second goal in the competition for the key Spanish midfielder following his brilliant opener against Bayern in the first leg of the quarter-final. Inter’s resistance was broken, and yet they nearly levelled almost immediately as a Dimarco header hit the bar. They nearly did so again in the 88th minute as Ederson somehow got in the way of a goal-bound Lukaku effort. After coming so close in recent Champions League campaigns, finally it was City’s time.