The 2022/23 Champions League final isn’t going to go down as one to remember but neither Manchester City nor Pep Guardiola will care as the Cityzens get by Inter Milan 1-0 to win their first Champions League title.
Manchester City also completed the treble in the process.
The match did not go as many would have predicted with Inter defensively organized, forcing Manchester City to sideways passing and cutting off lanes, resulting in Guardiola’s side looking bereft of ideas.
To make matters worse, Kevin De Bruyne was forced off in the first half after picking up a knock. He tried to play through it but eventually had to make way for Phil Foden.
City were slopping in the opening half and a scoreless game at the break was a fair result.
The second half saw City play a little bit better but none of the wide players were able to connect with Erling Haaland who had a poor game by his standards.
Neither team created many scoring opportunities but it was Inter who looked the more threatening side.
The opener wouldn’t come until the 68th minute as Bernardo Silva was played through into the box. At the byline, he cut the ball back to an oncoming Rodri who had plenty of space to take the shot. The central midfielder thundered the ball, just avoiding two Inter defenders to break the deadlock.
“I’m emotional, this is a dream come true,” Rodri said after the match. “In recent years we’ve been so close. It wasn’t easy, what a team we faced; the way they defended, the way they counterattacked. We deserve to celebrate!”
The goal, however, didn’t result in City dominance. In fact, Inter looked the better side after going down a goal.
Romelu Lukaku replaced Edin Dzeko in the second half and played a role in the final outcome, though not the way he would have hoped. Inter nearly equalized after the City defense let a ball bounce in the area. Federico Dimarco’s header hit the post and a subsequent shot ended up hitting Lukaku in the leg.
Lukaku then had a free header saved by Ederson just seconds into stoppage time. Ederson was fortunate Lukaku’s header went straight at him. Anywhere else, it would have been a goal.
City hung on in the final minutes with the players erupting following the final whistle.
“The final was written in the stars,” Guardiola said. “I am happy but, at the same time, they [Inter] could have scored and we could have lost. We are satisfied about something unique: winning the treble.”
Indeed, Manchester City became the second English team, behind Manchester United, to win a treble. For Guardiola, this was his second time doing so after achieving the feat in his first season as a coach with Barcelona back in 2008/09.
The Champions League title is a bit of vindication for City and Guardiola.
City were rightfully criticized for spending so much money only to flounder in Europe’s premier club competition time and time again. Guardiola was labeled as an overthinker and someone who couldn’t win the Champions League without the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
They’ve now got those knocks off their backs.
City did not have a strong start to the season, finding themselves behind Arsenal the majority of their campaign. They turned things on when they needed and had it not been for Southampton of all teams, they could have won a quadruple.
That is likely to matter little as City and Guardiola got the title they wanted most: the Champions League.