The last time Istanbul hosted a UEFA Champions League final was in 2005 when the Merseyside Reds met the Rossoneri of Italy at the Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadi. On the 10th of June, 18 years later, the Cityzens met the Nerazzurri in Istanbul after a remarkable UCL run that had the former get their revenge against Real Madrid and the latter boss both legs of a UCL semi-final Milan derby. The final featured an English side and an Italian side which last happened in 2007 between Liverpool and AC Milan. Considering Inter Milan’s form and City’s ruthlessness in the race to win the treble, it was a bit difficult to predict a winner.

Since the night the UCL finalists were confirmed, conversations have been spawning on the internet and in real life about the widely anticipated game. Some football fans were so sure that this is the time Pep gets to complete a continental treble in England which also doubles as the first time the Cityzens lift an European trophy. Some others were of the opinion that a Lukaku and Lautaro duo up-front against City was going to do the trick. Predictions were posted, stakes were made, in preparation for the kick-off at 20:00 GMT +1.

Guardiola made very little changes to the team that started the FA Cup final, starting Ake in place of Walker and Ederson for Ortega. He maintained his 3-2-4-1 formation, playing Rodri and Stones as the double pivot, Silva and Grealish at both ends of the field, Kevin and Gundogan in the middle with Haaland up-front. This is a new side of Pep that has proven to work for the maestro as he won the league and FA Cup with it and people were not surprised to see him play it again in the UCL final.

Simone Inzaghi, Inter’s manager, also made a few changes from his last league game against Torino by bringing Dzeko on instead of Lukaku, Onana instead of Handanovic in goal, Acerbi instead of De Vrij, while Barella and Dimarco returned to the midfield. Inzaghi played 3-5-2 having Dzeko and Lautaro up-front and a five-man midfield. Seeing Lukaku on the bench gave the fans more insight into what Simone might have planned against Pep.

The first few minutes of the game went normal, at least to fans that understand Pep’s possessive football. Possession was at 66%-34% in favour of City as they struggled to find ways to put the ball in the back of the net. Simone, on the other hand, moved his boys high up the pitch to neutralise Pep’s possessive play. Haaland became unusually quiet for some minutes and it looked like Inter Milan successfully neutralised the fierceness of the Norwegian. In the thirtieth minute of the game, there was cause for concern for City as Kevin De Bruyne went down on the pitch looking uncomfortable. He received treatment and the game continued until minutes later when he asked to be removed. He was replaced by Foden who paired up with Gundogan in the middle. After a few fouls from both sides which attempted to heat up the atmosphere a bit, both teams went goalless at half-time.

After the half-time break, Inter were back to giving a KDB-less City tough time in making headway in the final third although the Nerazzurri were themselves, also not tasking Ederson. In the 57th minute, Inzaghi brought on Lukaku for Dzeko to pair up with Lautaro up-front. Seconds after, Akanji made a defensive error, leaving a backpass for Ederson who wasn’t quickly notified. Lautaro swiftly got the ball and tried to beat Ederson but the goalie denied the Argentine the match opener. Inter’s backline were very disciplined at denying City players the space they needed to put a goal past Onana until the 68th minute when a curled strike from Rodri sent the ball into the back of the net after a deflection off Darmian. Dimarco had the opportunity to pull Inter level but his header hit the bar and his rebound effort got deflected off his teammate, Lukaku, preventing the ball from going in.

Lukaku had an attempt on goal which Ederson denied by making a solid stop. Substitutions were made on both sides as the Nerazzurri desperately fought for an equalizer to bring them level. At the 88th minute Ederson denied Lukaku again, this time from point-blank range, keeping City ahead. In typical fashion of teams when chasing a game, Inter pushed all their players forward, sending in threatening long balls and testing City’s defenders as they fought for an equalizer. The fight went on as 5 minutes of extra-time was added to the game. Ederson, Onana, and Haaland got booked within this period as tensions rose to an all-time high. Inter were denied once again with what proved to be the last kick of the game as a Gosens header was kept out by Ederson. The whistle was blown and Pep won Manchester City their first UEFA Champions League trophy after taking them to two finals in three years.

The UCL trophy secured a treble for the Cityzens after clinching the Premier League title and FA Cup. Apart from making history in Manchester City, Pep Guardiola now has two continental trebles under his name as a club manager, one with Barcelona in 2009 and the second with Manchester City in 2023. Is this where we crown Pep as the greatest club manager of all time? What do you think?

Peter Adeyemo.

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  1. Pep is the greatest Manager of all time
    Go and argue with your 2 European trebles & 1 domestic quadruple

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