DThis last sprint certainly didn’t hurt. At the signal of the Polish referee Marciniak, the players in sky blue took off in the direction of their fans. They had all caught their breath just before, with Inter Milan’s last chance in the sixth minute of added time, but now it was time to party – one that took quite a long run by any standards.
And it was fitting that there had been a sometimes almost tormenting foreplay on Saturday evening. More than two-thirds of the season had already expired, until then there was no big difference between what is commonly believed to be the best football team on the planet and the third in the Italian league, but then City still found the decisive gap.
Suddenly Rodri was able to shoot from the background and Inter Milan’s defense department had nothing to do against his massive and sufficiently precise work. And because the goal in the 68th minute was the only one of the evening in the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, despite good chances for Inter, passionately directed by Simone Inzaghi, Pep Guardiola and even more so Manchester City were still on target.
A sky-blue epoch
For what felt like an eternity, the probably best coach in the world couldn’t get his hands on the pot, in 2011 for the last time. But it was even longer for Manchester City and the owners from Abu Dhabi, who took over the club in 2008 and since then have turned it into the brightest but also most controversial number in world football with millions upon millions.
After seven English championships, five of them in the last six years, and three cup wins, it is now also the first in the Champions League, plus the first treble by an English club since 1999, then also Manchester, but United – a different era. The new one could shine sky blue even longer, despite all the troubles City had on Saturday. At least as long as the club is not overtaken by completely different shadows.
On the occasion of the hoped-for coronation, even Sheikh Mansour himself announced his visit, the owner had only seen a competition game of his top asset before, and that was in 2010. He was then seen in the light blue city scarf, with the President of the United States next to him Arab Emirates and the Turkish head of state Erdogan.
Guardiola had urged patience the night before. “You have to be stable in finals,” he said. “A 0-0 doesn’t mean we lose. The Italian teams then think they’re about to win, but that’s not true.” He made one change in his starting XI from the 2-1 FA Cup final win over Manchester United: Aké defended instead of Walker .
At Inter, the semi-final second leg against Milan was more of a benchmark, and there was a change there too, Brozovic played for the injured Mchitarjan. That meant the starting spot belonged to former Bundesliga top scorer Dzeko alongside Lautaro Martinez, with Lukaku initially on the bench along with German defender Gosens.