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Man City beats Inter Milan 1-0 to win first Champions League title and complete 3-trophy sweep

By AP

Published : June 11, 2023 - 10:19

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Manchester City captain Ilkay Guendogan raises the trophny as the team celebrate winning the UEFA Champions League Final soccer match between Manchester City and Inter Milan, in Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday. (EPA) Manchester City captain Ilkay Guendogan raises the trophny as the team celebrate winning the UEFA Champions League Final soccer match between Manchester City and Inter Milan, in Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday. (EPA)

ISTANBUL — Manchester City won the Champions League title for the first time by beating Inter Milan 1-0 in Istanbul’s Ataturk Olimpiyat Stadium on Saturday.

Rodri struck in the 68th minute to see the Premier League champions and FA Cup winners complete a treble of trophies this season.

"Today we made history," City captain Ilkay Gundogan said. "We knew everyone was talking about the treble. The pressure was there but this team is built to handle the pressure in the best possible way."

While it is the first time City has won European soccer’s biggest club competition, it is a third Champions League crown for Pep Guardiola as a coach.

He had tears in his eyes as he celebrated on the field with his players after ending his long wait for the title he last won with Barcelona in 2011.

It was his 30th major piece of silverware as a coach and the second time he has won a treble, emulating his feat with Barcelona in 2009. City became just the second English club to complete a sweep of the two biggest domestic trophies and the Champions League, after Manchester United did it in 1999.

City triumphed despite losing inspirational midfielder Kevin De Bruyne to an injury in the first half and star striker Erling Haaland having an unusually quiet evening, finally achieving its ambition of reaching the summit of European soccer — 15 years after Abu Dhabi’s ruling family transformed it into one of the richest teams in the world.

Owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan was in attendance to see the crowning moment, watching his team in person for only the second time since buying the club in 2008.

Inter went into the game as the underdog, but pushed City right to the final whistle, with Romelu Lukaku having the chance to score a late equalizer, when heading straight at Ederson from about four meters out.

City's winner came when Rodri collected Bernardo Silva’s cutback and fired through a crowded penalty box.

The relief was unmistakeable as he raced towards City's fans and slid on his knees in celebration.

Inter almost evened the score within minutes of that goal when Federico Dimarco hit the bar from close range.

He then looked like turning in the rebound, only to see his header come back off teammate Lukaku.

For all the talk of City’s superiority leading up to the game, it was won by the finest of margins.

Had Lukuku been more clinical in those final moments, Inter could have taken it extra time at least.

Had Dimarco not headed against the legs of the Belgium striker with the goal to aim at, Inter could have made an immediate reply to Rodri’s goal.

And had Lautaro Martinez picked out Lukaku, rather than trying to beat Ederson from the narrowest of angles when the score was 0-0, again, the outcome could have been very different.

But City was the team that found a way through, even on a night when it was far from its best and showed few examples of the flowing play that saw it blow away Bayern Munich and Real Madrid on the way to the final.

It was as if the nerves had got to Guardiola’s players. The weight of expectation felt like it was too much even at the end of a season when it has swept all rivals aside.

The fans, too, who had descended on Istanbul throughout the week, seemed subdued and unable to lift their team.

They likely feared the worst when De Bruyne went down holding his right leg in the first half. It was as if history was repeating itself after injury had also forced the Belgium international off when City lost to Chelsea in its only other Champions League final in 2021.

But just when it looked like Inter could cause one of the biggest Champions League final upsets in history, Rodri came up with the decisive moment.

Bernardo’s run down the right of the box pulled Inter defense out of shape. Cutting the ball back, Rodri was the quickest to react, bursting forward before hitting a shot with both power and precision beyond desperate Inter bodies.

When the final whistle blew, it was the Spain midfielder who led the charge up the other end of the field with a celebratory slide in front of the ecstatic City fans.

Europe had been conquered. A mission that began 15 years ago, completed. (AP)