Guardiola hits back as Man City reach Champions League final

Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola took a swipe at his critics after the Manchester City manager finally led his team to the Champions League final with a 2-0 win against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

Riyad Mahrez’s brace at the Etihad Stadium sealed a 4-1 aggregate success in the semi-final second leg.

City will make their first ever Champions League final appearance against Chelsea or Real Madrid in Istanbul on May 29.

It was a cathartic moment for City boss Guardiola, who has been needled by claims that he only won the Champions League with Barcelona thanks to the genius of Lionel Messi.

The Argentine superstar was crucial to Barca’s two Champions League triumphs under Guardiola’s management in 2009 and 2011.

Since leaving Barca in 2012, Guardiola had been unable to return to the Champions League final in three years with Bayern Munich and his first four seasons at City.

But the 50-year-old has taken City to the promised land at last and he was quick to underline how difficult the achievement was.

“We fought together and we’re in the final of the Champions League and those are nice words,” Guardiola said.

“People believe it’s easy to arrive in the final of the Champions League. Getting to the final now makes sense of what we have done in the past four or five years.

“Manchester United won a (Champions League) title because of John Terry’s slip and also in the last minute against Bayern Munich. Real Madrid won a final against Atletico in the 93rd minute.

“It’s a competition that is so difficult and something in the stars is involved in that.”

Praising City’s squad for thriving despite the demands of a gruelling fixture list, Guardiola paid tribute to his players.

“It is for all of us and the club. I’m incredibly proud and my first thoughts are with the players who didn’t play today. They all deserved to play, everyone has made a contribution and now it is time to enjoy it,” Guardiola said.

“Paris win the league every year, they are a team built to win, they fought to the end. They a huge team but we were so composed.

“They put a lot of players in the middle and we struggled a lot in the first half to high press and we changed at half-time. 

“We recovered the ball better in the second half and we were much better in the way we played.”

City have already won the League Cup and with their Champions League final place booked, Guardiola will turn his attention to clinching the Premier League title with a victory against Chelsea on Saturday.

“We have to win the league and we have two or three weeks to prepare for the final,” he said.

Mahrez was City’s key man in the tie as the Algerian’s double added to the free-kick he scored to put City 2-1 up in the first leg.

Mahrez admitted City knew they had the victory wrapped up once PSG started lashing out, culminating in Angel Di Maria’s needless red card for a petulant stamp on Fernandinho.

“It was a very good game. We didn’t start well but we got the goal and we were more comfortable after that,” Mahrez said. 

“They had to come at us. We are good on the counter. That’s how the two goals came about.

“We could have scored more. They lost their nerve and started to kick us. After the red card it was good for us.”

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