Saturday 18 May 2024 - 12:00

11:29 pm


Manchester City wins Champions League for first time, beating Inter Milan 1-0 in tense Istanbul final

For sporting greatness to be achieved, there needs to be a defining moment. The Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul on Saturday was Manchester City’s, the scene where an obsession finally became reality and history was made.

Ever since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Abu Dhabi United Group took ownership of the club in 2008, winning Europe’s premier cup competition had been the ultimate aim.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in the last 15 years, and controversy has surrounded the club, but now the Champions League is, finally, theirs after a 1-0 win over Inter Milan which will live long in the memory for the significance of the result, rather than the match itself.

This was not only a night when City won its first Champions League. In beating three-time champion Inter, Pep Guardiola’s side became only the second English team to achieve the treble, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season.

The first to do so was Manchester United in the 1998/99 season, and while comparing teams from different eras is futile, this City side is certainly as dominant domestically as that United team of Alex Ferguson, winning five league titles in six seasons.

The challenge now is to accumulate titles as ruthlessly in Europe. After all, it is the competition’s serial winners who are remembered and feted the most.

Bernardo Silva went close in the first five minutes for City, while Erling Haaland had his best chance of the match in the 26th minute, forcing a low save from Inter goalkeeper André Onana.

The Norwegian’s effort came minutes after Nicolò Barella spotted City goalkeeper Ederson off his line and took aim at goal only to skew his first-time strike dreadfully wide.

That was as good as it got in the first half as Inter’s high-energy, aggressive pressing left City with plenty of possession but little to show for it.

The second half was just as fraught, Inter continuing to defend brilliantly, City continuing to probe for openings. Yet, once Rodri put City ahead in the 68th minute, his curling first-time shot from a Bernardo Silva cut-back beating several Inter defenders, Inter could have at least have scored twice.

Federico Dimarco’s header struck the crossbar, while his follow-up effort from six-yards out hit teammate Romelu Lukaku. In the closing minutes, Ederson stopped a Lukaku header from point-blank range for a save that secured the trophy for City.

It was in September 2008 that Sheikh Mansour – who attended only his second City game on Saturday – wrote an open letter to City fans, telling them that the owners were ambitious yet “not unreasonably so,” understanding that it took time to construct a team, a club that could challenge for league titles and European trophies. 

Within four years the Premier League was conquered, a first title won, snatched from Manchester United in the final seconds of the final day of the season, starting an era of dominance which continues to this day.

Yet, success in Europe has taken longer than many would have expected. For all the money spent, City continued to fail in the knockout stages of the Champions League: beaten by Monaco in 2017, Liverpool in 2018, Tottenham in 2019, Lyon in 2020, Chelsea in 2021 and Real Madrid in 2022. “This competition is so difficult to win,” Guardiola told BT Sport after the match.

It was the arrival of Guardiola in 2016 that was meant to change City’s fortunes in the Champions League, yet it was the acquisition of Haaland last summer which made City formidable in Europe. The striker himself this week admitted he was bought to help win this competition. He “feels the pressure,” he said. Not that it has showed on the pitch during a season in which he has scored an extraordinary 52 goals, though he did fail to find the net in Istanbul with Inter’s defence keeping him on the periphery. --- CNN




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