For the two coaches who stood so close to each other on the touchlines yesterday (Wednesday) at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester it was a historic game.
On one side stands Carlo Ancelotti, the Italian coach of Real Madrid, the only one to win the Champions League four times and the only one to win championships in all five major European leagues. For him it was the 191st game of his career in the Champions League, more than anyone else ever. In doing so, he broke the record held by Alex Ferguson.
From the other past stood Pep Guardiola, the Catalan coach, who has won the Champions League twice in the past, but that happened a long time ago. Pep’s last win was in 2011, 12 years ago. When he was still the coach of Barcelona.
For Pep it was the 100th victory in the Champions League, his 160th match at the factory. No other coach has such a success rate. And how appropriate it was that the 100th victory came in one of his greatest games as Manchester City coach, and perhaps the greatest of all.
Because beating Real Madrid 0:4 in the semi-finals is no small matter. This is a historic result that will be remembered for many years to come.
And what is interesting is that the result did not deprive Real at all. On the contrary, she still did her a favor. If not for Thibaut Courtois’ incredible ability between the posts, City would have won by a much larger margin.
The first half was a display of purpose that bordered on perfection. The numbers were unprecedented. City possessed the ball 72 percent of the time (compared to Real’s 28). The balance of kicks to the goal was 1:13. Kicks to the frame: 0:5.
In the first 20 minutes, even though the score was still 0:0, City had 107 touches of the ball in the front third of the pitch, meaning near Real’s goal. How many touches did the Real players have in the front third of the pitch during this time? zero.
Like Barcelona of the beginning of the previous decade, this Manchester City was also built in the image and likeness of Pep Guardiola. And the way she played in the first half was the fulfillment of all Pep’s dreams.
The proof of this is Charling Holland, the phenomenon who scored 52 goals this season, did not score at all in his 179 minutes against Real Madrid, and yet City scored 5 goals against the outgoing European champions. Because it is not about “Holland and ten more”, but an entire football team. The irony of fate is that the one who replaced Holland yesterday in the 89th minute, the Argentinian Julian Albers, scored with his first touch of the ball…
In the “Daily Mirror” newspaper yesterday they gave a sophisticated title for the game: “make some noise”. Beyond the fact that it is a famous song by the Beastie Boys, it was a nod to Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Everyone remembers Sir Alex’s comment about Manchester City when he called them the “noisy neighbours” when the new owners arrived from the Emirates.
Well, yesterday not only did the City fans make a lot of noise in the stands of the stadium, but Pep’s team gave the crushing answer to all the detractors and all the eyebrow raisers. City is now not only the best team in town. It is the best team in the world.
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