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Mahrez double takes Man City into first Champions League final

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Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez (2L) is mobbed by teammates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 4, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)


Manchester City reached the Champions League final for the first time in the club’s history as Riyad Mahrez’s double saw off Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 on Tuesday to seal a 4-1 aggregate win.

Mahrez’s goal also decided the first leg and the Algerian, who grew up in the Parisian suburbs, haunted his home town team again with two clinical finishes early in each half.

The final in Istanbul on May 29 against Real Madrid or Chelsea is the culmination of City’s rise since an Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 transformed the club’s fortunes.

Meanwhile, four years on from making Neymar and Kylian Mbappe the world’s two most expensive players, PSG’s wait for a first Champions League title goes on.

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Mbappe could only watch on from the stands due to a calf injury as, just like in last week’s first leg, his side imploded after an excellent first-half performance.

The visitors were left to rue huge missed chances by Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria in between Mahrez’s strikes before Di Maria lashed out at Fernandinho to leave PSG down to 10 men for the final 20 minutes.

City will set the seal on a fifth Premier League title in the past 10 years in the coming days as they remain on course for a treble, having already lifted the League Cup.

But it has taken until their 10th consecutive season in the Champions League for Sheikh Mansour’s investment to be rewarded by playing in the biggest game in club football.

City boss Pep Guardiola has won the Champions League twice before as a coach during his time at Barcelona.

However, the Catalan has also endured a decade of anguish in Europe’s premier club competition since.

Four times Guardiola has fallen at the semi-final stage with Barca and Bayern Munich since last lifting the trophy in 2011 on top of three quarter-final exits with City in the past three seasons.

In many of those ties, the fine details and controversial decisions went against Guardiola’s men despite dominating the match.

This time it was a role reversal as City had to withstand a barrage from PSG before the break.

The French champions thought they had an early penalty to get back in the tie when Oleksandr Zinchenko was penalised for handball.

However, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers rightly reversed his initial decision on seeing a replay of the ball bouncing off the Ukrainian’s shoulder.

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Zinchenko was heavily involved again when the opening goal arrived at the other end.

He raced onto City goalkeeper Ederson’s thunderous long pass into the PSG area. Zinchenko’s cut-back found Kevin De Bruyne and after the Belgian’s shot was blocked, Mahrez pounced to slot home on his weaker right foot.

The tie was still far from over as PSG penned City back and should have been at least level on the night before half-time.

Marquinhos has made a habit of scoring big Champions League goals and the Brazilian was inches away from another when his looping header came back off the crossbar.

Ederson then nearly undid his good work as Di Maria intercepted his hurried throw to Bernardo Silva and flashed a shot inches wide with the Brazilian ‘keeper stranded outside his goal.

Neymar nullified

Mauricio Pochettino will wonder what could have been had Mbappe been fit with his replacement Icardi ineffective.

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Neymar only ever showed flashes of his brilliance with City’s impressive defence led by Ruben Dias able to focus on stopping the Brazilian without Mbappe to worry about.

City have now kept 31 clean sheets this season in a marked contrast to the defensive weakness that has previously cost them in this competition.

Guardiola’s men have always shown enough quality going forward and a clinical counter-attack killed off the tie on 63 minutes.

De Bruyne freed Phil Foden down the left and his inch-perfect cross was blasted high past Keylor Navas by Mahrez.

In a repeat of the first leg, PSG’s discipline went with their hopes of reaching the final.

Di Maria needlessly stamped on Fernandinho to be shown a straight red card before Marco Verratti was lucky to escape seeing a second yellow.

Foden hit the post as City threatened to run riot in the closing stages.

But they had already done enough to make history.

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