Man City reach semi-finals as De Bruyne kills off PSG
MANCHESTER – Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini’s ambition of leaving them as kings of Europe moved a step closer on Tuesday when his side reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time after a tense 1-0 win over Paris St Germain.
City sealed a 3-2 aggregate victory with a superb curling shot from Kevin de Bruyne with 14 minutes remaining of the quarter-final, second-leg.
It was the Belgium international’s second goal of the tie after he netted City’s opener in the 2-2 first leg draw in Paris last week.
Pellegrini, who is leaving at the end of the season to make way for Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, last reached the semi-finals 10 years ago with Villarreal and now hopes to go one better by lifting the European Cup in Milan on May 28.
“This is a great achievement for the club, we played as a big, mature team and we deserved it,” the 62-year-old Chilean told reporters.
“We were very unlucky to be drawn against Barcelona in the last 16 in the last two seasons, but now we have proved we deserve to be one of the best four teams in Europe.”
The quarter-final has proved a stumbling block for PSG, who went out of the competition at that stage for the fourth successive season, leaving coach Laurent Blanc to rue what might have been.
“Our failure was both in last week’s game and this week’s,” he said.
“We were not clinical enough over the two legs, we were not efficient enough and have paid the price by failing to qualify. Manchester City were not spectacular but they deserved to win.”
City should have taken the lead at the Etihad Stadium in the first half when PSG keeper Kevin Trapp brought down Sergio Aguero to concede a penalty, but the normally lethal Argentine fired his spotkick wide.
After a bright, attacking opening from City, PSG took control and played some flowing passing football.
Blanc, without the suspended David Luiz and Blaise Matuidi, opted to start with a three-man back line of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Serge Aurier but switched to a 4-4-2 formation after Thiago Motta went off injured a minute before halftime.
Yet despite dominating possession, with Adrien Rabiot and Angel Di Maria linking well, PSG did not mount a serious attempt on goal, apart from a dipping free kick from Zlatan Ibrahimovic after 17 minutes which City keeper Joe Hart did well to tip away.
City came more into the match as their fullbacks Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy became more adventurous and their slicker attacking approach play should have paid dividends when Aguero won the penalty.
The closest PSG came to a goal in the second half was when Ibrahimovic bundled the ball into the net in the closing minutes but was narrowly ruled offside. –Reuters