Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Manchester City Completes Treble With Champions League Victory

Manchester City sits astride the football world after defeating Inter Milan 1-0 to capture the Champions League and notch their third title of the season. The Premier League champions won the Champions League for the first time. Having also secured the English FA Cup in a win over Manchester United last week, City joins their crosstown rivals as the only two English clubs to complete such a Treble.

The victory Saturday in Istanbul did not come easy. Kevin De Bruyne left the match in the first half with a severely injured hamstring. De Bruyne has now made an early exit from both Champions League finals in which he has participated. The Belgian international suffered facial fractures in a collision with then Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger in the 2021 final.

Erling Haaland, meanwhile, was thwarted by the physical Inter Milan defense on Saturday, continuing his frustration of recent weeks. The superlative striker finished his record season by scoring just once in Manchester City’s final eight matches. Yet Manchester City still found a way to capture the European crown. Defensive midfielder Rodri capitalized on a deflected pass from Bernardo Silva to drill a 68th minute goal through a narrow crack in the tightly packed Inter defense to find just the slimmest of windows between the post and Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana. The Rodri goal would become the margin of victory, just barely.

Inter forward Romelu Lukaku failed to capitalize on a free header mere feet from the Inter goalmouth. Lukaku would be less at fault for unintentionally blocking another Inter attempt on goal. Inter Milan’s Federico Dimarco would have his header glance off the bar. The match ended with an attempt by Inter’s Robin Gosens, off a cross from Dimarco, being narrowly saved by Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson to preserve the win. The Brazilian goalie showed some rust in the early going after playing in just one of City’s last four matches but was up to the task when his club needed him the most.

Inter Milan pushed the Premier League side to its limit despite being a massive underdog in the match. The manner of victory won’t matter to Manchester City supporters and Manager Pep Guardiola who frankly admitted this past week that only a Champions League title would validate his time at the Manchester club. Guardiola has been criticized for tinkering with his lineup in past major championships and it remains fuzzy if Saturday’s benching of Kenny Walker for Nathan Ake was tactical or injury related. Walker made a late substitution appearance. Guardiola’s inventiveness was on display in the final, however, as converted defender John Stones was again deployed in a more expansive attacking midfield role.

Guardiola delivered the long-sought Champions League title for which he was hired by Manchester City and did so in front of owner Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi who attended only his second match since acquiring ownership of Manchester City in 2008. Guardiola has removed a long-standing monkey from his back by winning Europe’s top prize for the first time since leaving Barcelona and Lionel Messi. The Catalan manager had won the title in 2009 and 2011 with his star laden Spanish club but experienced subsequent frustration in trying to add to that haul at first Bayern Munich and now Manchester City. His third title now cements Guardiola’s place in history.

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