Manchester City put one foot in the Champions League final by beating Paris Saint-Germain away from home in the semi-final first leg, with Pep Guardiola’s favourite wonderkid having another fantastic performance. Guardiola chose to play without a centre-forward for the game, but his midfield options alleviated the need for a focal point in the side.
City have one foot in their first-ever Champions League final.
The Citizens stunned PSG at the Parc des princes, with Idrissa Gueye summing up his side’s performance by lashing out late and earning a red card.
City had got off to a nightmare start in the first half, with Marquinhos nodding in an opening goal after 15 minutes.
After a stern talking-to by Guardiola, City reshaped and attacked PSG in the second half, with Kevin de Bruyne putting in a starring role.
The Belgian, who recently signed a new contract, scored the equaliser just after the hour mark with a curled cross which evaded everyone – including Kaylor Navas.
Just minutes later, he was primed to take a free-kick just outside the PSG area, but instead chose to let Riyad Marhez take the shot, with the left-footed star drilling the ball home.
City in recent years have been strict with their wage structure, and haven’t wanted to pay too much to individuals at risk of upsetting the rest of the camp.
But Guardiola quite understandably wanted De Bruyne to stay, and sanctioned City chiefs to hand him a new contract worth an eye-watering £80million.
If there were ever any doubts as to whether City were right to dedicate so much money to one player, a 29-year-old player at that, they were made to look silly on Wednesday.
De Bruyne once again proved his invaluable worth to the side, this time playing out of position.
Guardiola is known to tinker with his teams for big matches, and chose to play De Bruyne as a false nine to face the French champions.
The move was a masterstroke, as the Belgian constantly drifted in and out of the PSG lines, creating confusion and ensuring they couldn’t keep their shape.
He was helped in his efforts to create trouble for the French side by Phil Foden, who seems to look a better player every time he steps out onto the pitch.
Guardiola has often received criticism for the way he handled Foden’s development, and once claimed he wouldn’t even accept a bid of £500m for the young attacker.
His declaration that Foden was the only player he would never consider selling was laughed at at the time, but it has now never been clearer that this is a player for the present and the future.
Foden had to wait for his chance, but is continuing to take it with both hands now Guardiola has increased his role in the side.
He played as a left winger, but was often given a free role to drift inside and swap places with De Bruyne.
Much has been made of City’s need to sign a new centre-forward this summer, with Erling Haaland on their agenda.
While that may be true, and it is worth noting that a striker with 53 goals in 56 games for Borussia Dortmund would virtually guarantee goals, there’s no need to suggest Guardiola can’t adapt if they miss out.