6 May 2021
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Pep Guardiola hailed
his players after Manchester City produced a superb performance to beat Paris
Saint-Germain to reach their first Champions League final.

In the battle between two clubs with seemingly endless
resources but no Champions League titles to their name, City kept their cool to
beat Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 on aggregate as the French champions paid for
losing their heads in both legs of the semi-final tie.

Riyad Mahrez, born and raised in Paris, scored twice to
secure a 2-0 win for City in Tuesday’s second-leg before Angel di Maria’s red
card for lashing out at Fernandinho rounded off another miserable European exit
for the French champions.

A first Champions League final for City, against Real Madrid
or Chelsea in Istanbul, is the culmination of the club’s rise since an Abu
Dhabi takeover in 2008 transformed their fortunes.

In the coming days, they will seal a fifth Premier League
title in the past 10 years.

Once dubbed the “noisy neighbours” by legendary
former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, City are now not just the
dominant force in Manchester but also in English football.

By the end of the month, the mix of Emirati wealth and Guardiola’s coaching may have also conquered Europe.

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“Of course we invest a lot of money since Sheikh
Mansour took over, but it is not just this,” said Guardiola. “It is a
lot of incredible things behind the scenes.

“Reaching the final of the Champions League, helps us
realise in the bigger picture what we have done in the last four years. What we
have done these four years is incredible.”


Since a difficult first year in England, Guardiola has led
City to four League Cups, an FA Cup and the brink of a third Premier League
title in four seasons.

However, until now, that domestic success always came with
the caveat of Champions League collapses.

Guardiola has won the competition twice before as a coach
during his time at Barcelona, but not since 2011.

City did not even progress beyond the last eight in his
first four seasons in charge.

It was a similar story for the Catalan in his three years at
Bayern Munich between 2013 and 2016 as three Bundesliga titles were
overshadowed by three semi-final exits to Spanish opposition.

“People believe because it happened in the past I have
to arrive every year in the final of the Champions League,” added

“This is a little bit unfair because the consistency
these guys have shown in every competition these last four or five years is

City exorcised many of their Champions League demons against

Missed chances, controversial refereeing decisions and
sloppy defending frequently combined to cost them in recent seasons.

This time an early penalty awarded against Oleksandr
Zinchenko was overturned after a VAR review, Mahrez was deadly with his two
chances and City’s much-improved defence withstood a first-half barrage.

“The first-half they were so good but we defended so
well. We defend all together, helped each other,” said Guardiola after a
31st clean sheet of the season.

“To reach the final in this competition is so
difficult. It is the toughest one for the quality of the opponents, the
composure you have to have and to suffer the toughest moments. We did it.”

Win one more game on May 29 and Guardiola will be among a select band of just three other managers — Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane — to win the European Cup three times.

With already 25 major trophies to his name in just 12
seasons in charge of Barca, Bayern and City, the 50-year-old can silence any
lasting doubters and cement his status as one of the greatest coaches of
all-time with victory in Istanbul.

Abdul Gh Lone