Manchester City Beat PSG to Advance to UCL Final Behind Riyad Mahrez Brace

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2021

Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez celebrates with teammates after scoring his sides second goal during the Champions League semifinal second leg soccer match between Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain at the Etihad stadium, in Manchester, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
Dave Thompson/Associated Press

Manchester City is through to the Champions League final for the first time in club history.

Thanks to a brace from Riyad Mahrez, the Premier League leader advanced past Paris Saint-Germain by a 4-1 aggregate score following a 2-0 second leg Tuesday at Etihad Stadium in Manchester.

B/R Football @brfootball


Conditions for the fixture were less than ideal after a hailstorm hit Manchester:

Julien Laurens @LaurensJulien

Never seen anything like this before!!! https://t.co/TnVACkoz4u

Mark Ogden @MarkOgden_

Man City v PSG... https://t.co/oL2VSWJmM5

Paris Saint-Germain experienced a setback in the form of an injury to one of its best players. A calf problem forced Kylian Mbappe to watch the start of the match from the bench. The French forward remained there for the duration of the evening.

The state of the pitch made it a little more difficult to string together passes for quick attacking moves. Ederson found the way to solve the problem when he launched a long ball ahead to Oleksandr Zinchenko. That triggered a sequence culminating in an 11th-minute goal from Mahrez.

B/R Football @brfootball

Get yourself a goalkeeper who can pass like Ederson 🤤 (🎥 @UCLonCBSSports) https://t.co/mmVv8gM9j7

Time and again, City got in the way of PSG's attempts on goal, blocking nine shots and holding its opponents to zero attempts on target. Ruben Dias in particular was excellent as the tone-setter for the back four. The Portuguese defender has had a massive impact in his first season at the club, not unlike how Virgil van Dijk almost single-handedly raised Liverpool's leaky defense when he arrived.

Mahrez removed any doubt about the outcome when he got himself into acres of space for a simple finish from a cross by Phil Foden on 63 minutes.

Champions League on CBS Sports @UCLonCBSSports

IT HAD TO BE RIYAD MAHREZ 🤯 https://t.co/0Ey2UTBbM1

Angel Di Maria added to Paris Saint-Germain's woe as he earned a red card for stamping on the foot of Fernandinho in the 69th minute.

By unraveling in the second half of the first leg, Paris Saint-Germain left itself with a difficult task Tuesday night. That still would've been true if Mbappe started from the outset, and his absence only added to the struggle.

Mauricio Pochettino tabbed Mauro Icardi to operate out of the No. 9 role. While the Argentine star has scored seven goals across 18 Ligue 1 appearances, this was a match in which PSG was unable to play to his strengths.

Squawka Football @Squawka

Mauro Icardi had fewer touches (13) than any other player on the pitch in the first half against Man City, including both goalkeepers. 👻 And none of them were in the opposition box. #UCL https://t.co/IdmzE5ELV0

Andres Cordero @DreCordero

Mauro Icardi reportedly doesn't watch football. There's actually very little evidence that he even likes football. And based on his level of involvement in that first half he may actually be allergic to football

Keeping Edinson Cavani instead of allowing his contract to expire was probably unrealistic given how tough it would've been to appease everyone in the attack. But one can't help wonder whether PSG would've been better Tuesday with Cavani leading the line in Mbappe's place.

Losing in the semifinals is a bitter pill to swallow given how desperate the club is to taste European glory for the first time. Between a tighter-than-expected title race in Ligue 1 and the sacking of Thomas Tuchel, this has been a tough season for the Parisians, though.

With the benefit of a full offseason to work with his players, Pochettino should have the squad in a much stronger place next year.

Manchester City, on the other hand, are on the precipice of achieving what ownership desired when it brought Pep Guardiola aboard in 2016. City's dominance in England has yet to fully translate in the Champions League, and that might finally change.


What's Next?

City awaits the winner of Wednesday's semifinal between Chelsea and Real Madrid. The Blues earned a 1-1 draw with Madrid in the first leg, which gives them a slight edge on away goals.


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