Brave Man City show Pep Guardiola their true identity with a game of two halves in Paris

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Tom Doyle
·3-min read
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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

For all the spoils Pep Guardiola has won at Manchester City, the Uefa Champions League is the one trophy that has evaded him... so far.

The Catalan coach is no stranger to lifting the European Cup, having won it three times at Barcelona - once as a player, and twice in the dugout.

But for all those glorious nights in Catalonia, he failed to deliver the Cup during his time at Bayern Munich, and his time at the Etihad has also had that particular failure lingering over him despite the bulging trophy cabinet.

When City saw off Borussia Dortmund to reach the semi-finals for the first time under Guardiola, it felt as though a weight had been lifted off both the coach and his squad.

However, a leaden first-half performance against Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes on Tuesday night suggested that, yet again, City could be folding under the pressure.

So it says a lot about Guardiola and his half-time team-talk that City responded to his demand for bravery with a stunning comeback win to leave themselves on the verge of a Champions League final.

PSG had gone into the interval 1-0 up thanks to a Marquinhos header, with Neymar bamboozling Guardiola’s side to leave Mauricio Pochettino’s Ligue 1 giants in control.

Getty Images
Getty Images

However, the second half was a different story as City dominated proceedings with a confident attacking performance full of self-belief.

Nearly 20 minutes after the restart, Kevin De Bruyne - who took the game by the scruff of the neck - swung in a devilish cross which evaded everyone to nestle in the corner of Keylor Navas’ net.

Seven minutes later, De Bruyne stood over a free-kick 25 yards out. Riyad Mahrez asked the Belgian if he could take it, to which De Bruyne replied: “Yes, if you believe in yourself.”

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

Mahrez obviously did as he curled the ball through a disgraceful PSG wall and in, securing another valuable away goal for City in the process.

PSG - who have made a habit of losing at home to clubs based in Manchester - seemed to implode slowly after the break and then all at once, with those two City “accidents”, as Pochettino later called them, followed by a red card for Idrissa Gueye after a disgraceful challenge on Ilkay Gundogan.

City came a long way on Tuesday night, though Guardiola will still feel that his team could, and should, have scored more than twice to wrap up the tie as a contest following Gueye’s deserved exit.

De Bruyne credited Guardiola with telling City to be “patient” at half-time and pick their passes, and the Catalan coach later explained that regardless of the result, he wanted his team to stick to their guns.

“[PSG] are a team who are able to do whatever they want because they have the quality, so that’s why you play a bit cautious. You cannot win the qualification in the first leg, but you can lose it in the first leg,” Guardiola told a news conference.

“I told them ‘I understand you guys, I was a player myself. If you lose you lose but you have to try to play our game. What is our identity as a team without the ball and with the ball’?”

City duly responded. “We were more aggressive in our game. In the first 45 minutes we played not to lose the ball but with no intention to break the lines,” added Guardiola.

“The second half was better in every way, our football was better.”

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

Guardiola is well aware the tie is not over, saying “anything can happen” with the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in PSG’s attack.

Still, City are now huge favourites to progress to a Champions League final against either Chelsea or Real Madrid, with Guardiola closer than ever before to delivering the European Cup to the Etihad.

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