Rob DawsonReporter8 minutes of reading
After a goalless first half with Kevin De Bruyne out with a thigh injury, Rodri scored the only goal of the game on Saturday as Pep Guardiola’s side completed the treble and secured the Premier League title and FA Cup.
Interim substitute Romelu Lukaku had a golden chance to equalise, but Ederson somehow managed to tap home with his header. The Italians pushed for the goal until the end but City were crowned champions of Europe for the first time in their history.
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1. City completed the treble with a Champions League win
Manchester City are the kings of Europe and treble winners. The Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League were all collected in the same season, making the team history and earning Pep Guardiola his biggest achievement in an already stellar coaching career.
City were made to work for a narrow win over Inter in Istanbul. Rodri scored the only goal in a game of quality and clear-cut chances, while City needed two dramatic late saves from Ederson before lifting the trophy.
For Guardiola, it was the culmination of a 12-year quest for another Champions League medal. The question that dogged his path from Barcelona to Bayern Munich and then City was whether he could succeed without Lionel Messi, and he finally answered it. Manchester United in 1998-99 were the only English team to win the treble, and the 25-year wait for another shows just how difficult it can be.
City held off Arsenal in the Premier League, beat United in the FA Cup final and beat Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the Champions League. They have earned their place as champions of Europe and the best team in the world.
2. Rhodri is great
Guardiola’s decision to leave Rodri out of his squad for the 2021 Champions League final against Chelsea is still a talking point, brought up again during a news conference with the City manager last week. Perhaps, it was fate that the Spanish midfielder would score the crucial first goal against Inter.
Rodri’s first Champions League goal was a big one, coming against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, but his second was even more important. He hasn’t scored much — just four this season — but he was in the right place at the right time to run onto Bernardo Silva’s cut-back and send his finish into the net. It was a rare moment of calm during a frantic game that felt rushed and chaotic for so long.
City’s season will be remembered for the trophies and Erling Haaland’s goals, but Rodri has been one of City’s best players this season. With Fernandinho out following his exit from Leeds United last summer and Calvin Phillips struggling to adapt, Rodri has had to play almost every game and he hasn’t beaten Guardiola once. City have conceded just five goals in the Champions League this season and that owes much to Ederson and Rodry’s performance in his defence.
3. Inter can be proud of the final performance
Nobody came to Inter in Istanbul and when they did, almost everyone predicted a comfortable victory for City. In the end, it was the result many expected but Simone Inzaghi and his players will return to Italy with their heads held high.
Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Arsenal are the best teams in the world, but they have all been beaten during City’s treble. Not many have made them look uncomfortable this season, but Inter’s high, aggressive press took City out of their rhythm for large parts of the game.
Lazaro Martinez’s chance after a miscommunication between Manuel Akanji and Ederson in the 0-0 draw and Federico DiMarco’s header hitting the bar after Rodri’s opener were two big moments for the Italian side that didn’t go their way.
That will be little consolation for Inter after losing the Champions League final, but they will have won plenty of fans with their performance. It was predicted to be 90 minutes of one-way traffic, but Inter more than played their part in a spectacular tactical battle. City and Guardiola were put to work for the Champions League trophy.
Best and worst performers
Ederson, GK, Manchester City
He made two late saves to win the trophy for City.
Rhodry, MF, Manchester City
Composed in midfield and scored the winning goal in the second half.
Marcelo Brozovic, MF, Inter
Inter’s pressing in midfield was high and aggressive and the Croatia international was key to that.
Romelu Lukaku, ST, Inter
The Belgium striker should have scored with a cannonballed late header past Ederson.
Edin Dzeko, ST, Inter
The former City striker didn’t see much of the ball and was substituted early in the second half.
Manuel Akanji, DF, Manchester City
He got away with a couple of mistakes in the second half but played his part in Rhodri’s goal.
Highlights and notable moments
Not many expected Manchester City to struggle so much on the attacking end all night and few thought Rodri would be the eventual winner.
Romelu Lukaku came on as an attacking supporter This is Close to competitive equilibrium. It was a disappointing performance for the Inter striker.
After the match: What the managers and players had to say
Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola BT Sport, on the win: “It was written in the stars. It belongs to us … we were not at our best. The team took a step forward after the World Cup and we were there. It was not our best performance.”
Guardiola, in the coming summer: “I don’t have any energy to think about next season, it’s impossible. We need rest, it’s too long … our players now have international games … the Premier League finished two or three weeks ago, now people come back. It’s too much. Next season we will start from zero.”
Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne injured PT: “It was a tough couple of months. I had a lot of problems with my hamstring and it broke.”
Inter Milan’s Simone Inzaghi to Sky Sport, on the defeat: “I congratulated the players. They were great, they played well. We lost a final we wanted to win at all costs, but they should be proud. I wouldn’t trade these players for the world today. I saw why. We conceded a little against a very strong team. . We have many regrets, but we should be proud.”
Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Info)
– Manchester City are the 10th different team (and the eighth different club) in men’s football history to win the European treble (domestic league, premier domestic cup, European Cup). Barcelona and Bayern Munich are the only clubs to have done it twice.
– Manchester City were the only men’s English team to win the European treble in 1998-99 along with Manchester United.
– Pep Guardiola became the first men’s coach to win the European treble multiple times after doing so early in the 2008-09 season with Barcelona. He joins Carlo Ancelotti (4), Zinedine Zidane and Bob Paisley as the only managers to have won three European Cup titles.
– Italian clubs lost in all three European finals this season (Inter Milan in the Champions League, AS Roma in the Europa League, Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League).
– Erling Haaland is the first Premier League Golden Boot winner to win the Champions League final since Cristiano Ronaldo won it with Manchester United in 2007-08. Hollande became the first player to win the Champions League Golden Boot twice before turning 23, alongside Lionel Messi.