It was the Cole Palmer show in the Athenian suburb of Piraeus at the historic Karaiskakis Stadium, home of the record 47 time Greek Champions, Olympiacos. While many Manchester City players underperformed, Cole Palmer had a second consecutive top-notch performance in a final, this time on the European stage.
City may have had the possession advantage, but the first half belonged to Sevilla FC, a club who has dominated on the European stage winning a record 7 UEFA Europa League and 1 UEFA Super Cup titles coming into the match, compared to Manchester City’s 1 UEFA Champions League and 1 UEFA European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Already, by the 1st minute, Eric Lamela got a shot wide proving just how dangerous Sevilla could be. Jesús Navas provided the cross on Sevilla’s next attempt which was gathered by Ederson in the 5th minute, while Cole Palmer was first to get a shot on target for City in the 6th minute.
Then, a corner would find Cole Palmer outside of the box on the centre-left side of the pitch just above the box as he crossed the ball into Nathan Aké who got a great header on the ball, but Sevilla’s Bono was able to save another shot in the 7th minute.
The game appeared to be back and forth and went into the 21st-minute drink break at 0-0.
However, just three minutes later and Sevilla would strike first, from a Marcos Acuña cross from the left to Youssef En-Nesyi who outmuscled and out jumped Joško Gvardiol to head the ball off the left post and into the goal. Sevilla was up 1-0.
The Spanish side would continue to get more chances at goal as the first half went on, and City were lucky to go into the break down just 0-1.
After a good play by Cole Palmer to set up a shot for Manuel Akanj, Sevilla set up a counter-attack that saw En-Nesyri get another shot at goal, this time from his foot, but the one-on-one opportunity was saved by Ederson (50’)!
Two more great chances came from Sevilla, with one being saved from a long-distance run by Kyle Walker to deflect the ball from an easy tap-in shot.
In the 62nd minute, Rodri was able to cross the ball from right where Palmer had in the first half to Aké, and this time, Palmer, Kyle Walker, and Erling Haaland were all in the box near the right post. Haaland went for the ball first, while Walker dove with his legs out to get a foot on the ball from the back. The ball found Palmer in between the two who headed the ball like a basketball floater, as it just glided in air, beneath the top post, landing in the left inside of the netting for a Manchester City goal! The Sky Blues were back, at 1-1!
Palmer almost got another goal that was barely saved by Bono in the 70th minute. The 78th minute saw a great inside-the-box cross from Jack Grealish, that was deflected by Bono, with Phil Foden just barely too far away from the ball to get a tap in in the six-yard box.
Sevilla and City traded shots during the last ten minutes of regular time, with the best opportunity coming to City when Phil Foden got a ball to Aké who once again had his header saved.
With Julián Álvarez having come on in the 84th minute for Palmer, City appeared to be already strategising for penalties, a smart move for a side that had a heartbreaking shootout loss just ten days prior.
However, while Sevilla’s last penalty shootout win had come in the 2023 Europa League Final, Manchester City’s had come in the 2019 FA Community Shield Final, so almost everyone assumed Sevilla had the upper hand.
Thus, when François Letexier blew the final whistle, advantage immediately went to the 2006 Super Cup winners, Sevilla.
Penalties - Again
Manchester City would shoot first after the coin toss where Kyle Walker featured as our captain.
Erling Haaland went up first and sent Bono diving left as Haaland kicked the ball to the bottom right corner for a goal! (MCFC 1-0)
Lucas Ocampos then copied Haaland sending Ederson the wrong way as, kicking the ball to the lower right corner to level. (MCFC 1-1)
Julián Álvarez came to the spot with his World Cup winning experience kicking the ball to the top right corner as Bono dove left again. (MCFC 2-1)
Rafa Mir saw Julián’s shot and copied it to tie up the shootout up once more. (MCFC 2-2)
Mateo Kovačić was first to shoot left as he sent Bono diving right, his penalty finding the low left corner. (MCFC 3-2)
Ivan Rakitić also chose to go left, but so did Ederson. However, Rakitić’s shot was mid-goal level, barely going over Ederson’s fingers and therefore scored. (MCFC 3-3)
Jack Grealish had a festive run-up as he started on the right side and went around to the left. Jack struck it down the middle as Bono dove left. (MCFC 4-3)
Gonzalo Montiel used his World Cup-winning experience to reduce the pressure, sending Ederson the wrong way, the ball mid-level to the right corner for a goal. (MCFC 4-4)
Kyle Walker came up to the spot and the nerves could be felt around the mostly Sky Blue stadium. Kyle shot left, but Bono dove left. Bono got a hand to it, but somehow the ball got past Bono taking a bounce straight up and into the top of the goal net. Walker’s penalty put all the pressure on Sevilla. (MCFC 5-4)
Nemanja Gudelj came to the spot, this time with the red section feeling all the nerves. Ederson dove left. Gudelj’s shot went right. But the shot was too high, hitting off the top post and going out! (MCFC 5-4)
City won the UEFA Super Cup for the first time after a 1-1 draw, 5-4 in penalty kick shootouts!
It was not the blues best display, but credit has to be given to the opposition. We have become so quick to judge foreign teams in this current period of Premier League domination as beneath the usual top sides. But the truth could not be any further from that on most European nights, especially against Sevilla. Wednesday was no different as Sevilla’s strategy was perfect for a cup final. Had Sevilla been more clinical, it would have been back-to-back trophy losses for City to start the 2023-2024 season.
Luckily, the blues had Cole Palmer and had also improved on their penalty kicks so the Citizens could lift their third European trophy of all-time.
Many players need to improve, such as Joško Gvardiol who looked uncomfortable at left back, and Mateo Kovačic, who should have been more attacking like in the Community Shield. But, these two players, and the rest of the team who lacked pre-season form, will surely get better as the season goes on.
The main worries for me are both Ederson and Erling Haaland.
Haaland had another disappearance in a cup final, five straight in a row. When City goes to Saudi Arabia this December for the Club World Cup, they will need him to be in his Premier League scoring mode. We must remember how close these matches usually are, especially for clubs that do not feature Messi or Ronaldo.
Ederson, meanwhile, had a fantastic match in regulation, and Cole Palmer was by far our best player. However, Ederson appears to be having trouble saving penalty kicks. Some may say that saving penalties is down to luck, but the CityZens should know better after witnessing how good Claudio Bravo was in these situations. The truth is, Ederson is starting to look more like David de Gea in shootouts - a very effective goalkeeper in regulation, but very ineffective in shootouts. Should Man City play as they did against Inter Milan, Arsenal, or Sevilla in the Club World Cup, or against any other team in any of the cups or the Champions League knockout stages, Ederson will probably need to improve on saving penalties, so he really needs to study and work on these.
In the end, it was a historic night for Manchester City, and it seems like the blues now need to win a European trophy in Rome, because they have done so in Istanbul, an Athenian suburb, and it seems like the Citizens are destined to attain glory in all of the historic capitals of Ancient Rome and Greece.
But they will have to wait as the next opportunity will be at Wembley Stadium for the 2024 Champions League Final.