It has been an exceptional year for Manchester City, and on Saturday it culminates with their first ever appearance in the Champions League final. Victory of Chelsea will see the dream of the owners, and indeed the fans come true after years of building to this point.
It all boils down to one match in Porto, and as part of our build up, we take a look at how City not only managed to go all the way in this year’s competition, but doing so unbeaten.
For a change, City didn’t face the usual suspects they had become accustomed to playing, so no Bayern Munich or Shahktar Donetsk in the group stage. Instead, they were drawn against Porto, Marseille and Olympiakos.
The first game was home to Porto, and the blues got their Champions League campaign going by conceding the first goal. Jut 14 minutes had passed when Luis Diaz gave Porto the lead. It lasted just six minutes as Sergio Aguero scored his 40th Champions League goal from the penalty spot to being City level. Ilkay Gundogan’s free kick gave City the lead and Ferran Torres sealed the points on 73 minutes, just moments after replacing Aguero.
City then travelled to Marseille six days later and made light work of the former French champions. Torres and Gundogan were again on the scoresheet, with the former opening the scoring on 18 minutes. Gundogan made it 2-0 on 76 minutes, with Raheem Sterling completing the scoring with 9 minutes to go.
And just a week later, City copied the scoreline when Olympiakos arrived in Manchester. Torres was on target for the third successive Champions League match, this time needing just 12 minutes. City had to wait until 9 minutes form time for their second, which came courtesy of Gabriel Jesus, with Joao Cancelo wrapping up the scoring in injury time.
The return leg in Greece needed a solitary first half goal from Phil Foden to settle the tie and send City through to the knock-out stage with two games remaining. Marseille arrived on 9th December and were dispatched 3-0, with all the goals coming in the second half. Torres was again on target, with Aguero adding a second. City’s third cam from an own goal by Alvaro Gonzalez.
The final group match took place in Porto, and they are the only team to prevent City from scoring and winning. Gabriel Jesus had a late goal disallowed as Cancelo was deemed offside and the home side hung on for a goalless draw. The point meant City finished top of the group again.
The blues faced German side Borussia Monchengladbach in the last 16, with City away in the first leg. Due to Coronaviris restrictions, the match was played in Budapest, but it was of no concern to City as they beat the Germans comfortably.
Bernardo Silva opened the scoring in the 19th minute, with Jesus adding to it in the 65th, to give City a two away goal advantage. The return leg took place in the same stadium and the blues threatened to run wild. By the 18th minute, Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan had scored for the blues, but with a 4-0 aggregate scorline and a gruelling Premier League schedule, the blues took their foot off the gas and there was no change to the scoreline.
The draw for both the quarter and semi final was made and the blues were pitched against another German side, this time in the shape of Borussia Dortmund. The Germans heralded stars such as former City man Jadon Sancho, Jude Bellingham, Marco Reus and a certain Erling Braut Haaland, who had been touted with a move to City in the summer.
Kevin de Bruyne fired City in front in the 16th minute, but Bellingham thought he’d levelled for Dortmund in the first half. However, the referee had already blown for a foul on Ederson before Bellingham put the ball in the net and City won a reprieve.
The blues wasted a host of chances to increase their lead and were made to pay with five minutes remaining. Haaland’s pass found Rues, and the German international fired home to draw the visitors level.
But City took a lead to Germany when Foden scored in the final minute of the match to leave the tie on a knife edge.
Eight days later, City arrived in Germany, knowing a draw would be enough to see them through. Bellingham gave Dortmund the lead on 15 minutes and the youngster would later make an on the line block to stop Riyad Mahrez from equalising. De Bruyne also hit the bar but City couldn’t find a way past the German defence in the first half.
The second half changed everything though. Ten minutes in and Emre Can was judged to have handled in the box and City were awarded a penalty. Mahrez took responsibility and fired home to draw City level. The blues were going through as it stood, however Foden wanted to make sure.
De Bruyne’s superb run and shot was saved by the keeper, but from the resulting corner, the ball found it’s way to Foden on the edge of the box and the youngster fired in a sot that hit the post and bounced into the back of the net.
The blues celebrated at the final whistle as they had made it to the semi-final for only the second time in their history.
Having dispatched Haaland and co, City’s next challenge would be tougher – they faced Mbappe and Neymar for a place in the final. There was much hype in the build up to the game and hopes of a Champions League final appearance looked bleak when the blues went behind. Marquinhos put City in front on 15 minutes, but the home side failed to add to their score – and they were made to regret it.
On 64 minutes, de Bruyne levelled and just six minutes later, a Mahrez free kick went through the PSG wall and into the back of the net to give the blues a vital 2 away goals and a lead to take back to Manchester.
History was made on 4th May when City beat PSG 2-0 to reach the final. Mahrez scored in the 11th minute after VAR had correctly overturned a PSG penalty award. The Algerian then made the tie, and City’s passage to the final, safe when he converted Foden’s cross to send City to Porto.