16 Apr Manchester City show champion qualities against Borussia Dortmund
Manchester City are into the Champions League semi-finals for just the second time in their history, and, with the Premier League title, the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup still all to play for, an historic quadruple is still in the making for Pep Guardiola’s side.
It is City’s first time in the final four of Europe’s elite club competition since they lost to Real Madrid under the guidance of Manuel Pellegrini in the 2015-16 season, and it seems that the mental block that the side have hit in the knockout stages in years gone by has finally been quashed.
In the four seasons since Guardiola replaced Pellegrini in the Etihad hotseat, City have often been fancied to win the Champions League in the betting exchange. However, disappointing results have followed. Monaco stunned the Manchester side in the round of 16 in Guardiola’s maiden season, going through on away goals after two thrilling encounters, which ended 6-6 on aggregate.
Their Premier League rivals Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur put paid to their Champions League dreams at the quarter-final stage in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively, before Lyon delivered a shock knockout blow last year, beating City 3-1 in Lisbon in the revamped one-off quarter-finals due to the delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
When they were drawn against tricky Borussia Dortmund at the same stage this year, there may have been some concern amongst the City fanbase that their side could suffer the same feat. After all, Dortmund do have one of the most fearsome attacks in European football, which is spearheaded by perhaps the most prolific goalscorer in the form of Erling Håland.
However, across the two legs against the dogged German Bundesliga side, Manchester City showed the qualities required to be European champions. At home, when Marco Reus levelled the scores late on, they didn’t settle for the draw and Phil Foden scored a crucial goal in the 90th minute to give Guardiola’s side a 2-1 advantage heading into the second leg.
When Jude Bellingham, who was controversially denied a goal in the first leg, gave Dortmund the lead at the Signal Iduna Park after 15 minutes, that put the hosts in the driver’s seat for progression to the semi-finals on the basis of the away goals rule. In the past few years, Man City would have crumbled had they gone in at half-time when on the brink of exiting the competition.
But they came out in the second half fearless and when Riyad Mahrez calmly converted from the spot in the 55th minute, it was clear that there was only going to be one winner of the tie. Foden’s effort in the final 15 minutes confirmed Man City’s place in the semi-final, where they will face last year’s finalists Paris Saint-Germain, and as you’d expect Guardiola was overjoyed.
“I am incredibly happy for this club, for this chairman and for the fans, everyone,” Guardiola told BT Sport. “It is the second time in the semi-finals, so it is not history in the club, but we start to build it.
“We were brilliant, except for the first 10 minutes where they were good. I’m incredibly happy to be in the semi-finals, to be one of the best four teams in Europe, to be against big, strong teams and we will try to be good.”
Now that Manchester City have put past disappointments behind them and gotten this far again in the competition, they must prove that they can go on to win it. It has been the club’s ambition to lift the Champions League since Sheikh Mansour bought City back in 2008, and it is now within touching distance. If they can get past PSG, then they will surely fancy their chances against either Real Madrid or Chelsea in the final.