Manchester City 1- 0 Internazionale: Rodri breaks Internazionale resistance to seal Manchester City’s treble glory

For Manchester City, it was the crowning glory, the trophy they have craved to complete the ultimate set.

It is often said that clubs must suffer before they win the Champions League and how City have done so, especially during the Pep Guardiola years when domestic dominance has brought no guarantees in Europe’s elite and most capricious competition.

They suffered some more here, Internazionale pushing them all the way, much further than many had expected, all the way to the last action. The team that finished third in Serie A were the equal of City for much of a high-stress night in Istanbul and they would depart with bitter regrets, the fine margins against them.

City know the feeling. This was the occasion when it all went for them, especially when their goalkeeper, Ederson, saved them not once but twice at the death.

Simone Inzaghi had introduced Romelu Lukaku in the second half and there was certainly a script to be written by the former Manchester United striker.

He could not do it, blowing a gilt-edged header in the 89th minute when unmarked in front of goal, the effort too close to Ederson, whose reaction save with his legs was nevertheless of the highest order.

On to the very last. Inter won a corner, Inzaghi waved his goalkeeper, André Onana, forward and, when the ball came over, the substitute Robin Gosens flicked a header towards the top of the net. Again, Ederson was equal to it, throwing up a hand to tip over and that is when everything seemed to descend into a blur, the City players streaming up to the far end where their supporters were housed, those in Inter’s black and blue slumping to the turf. Gosens lay prone, his face in the turf, for what felt like an age.

Rodri fires Manchester City into the lead midway through the second half.
Rodri fires Manchester City into the lead midway through the second half. 

The full-time whistle had gone, the decisive moment in front of goal proving to be Rodri’s finish on 68 minutes – a celebration of technique under pressure – and City could feel the touch of immortality. The season had come to feel like a quest for them to win their first Champions League, to right previous wrongs. To do so with another Premier League title in the cabinet, along with the FA Cup, making it a treble to equal that of their neighbours, Manchester United from 1999, has brought an impossible sweetness.

City were not at their crushing best; they felt the blow of losing their playmaker, Kevin De Bruyne, towards the end of the first half to injury. What a shame it was for the Belgian, who was forced out of the 2021 final loss to Chelsea after the notorious body check from Antonio Rüdiger.

It was purely about the result for City and they rode their luck after Rodri’s goal. Federico Dimarco stole in after a Manuel Akanji stutter to loop a header over Ederson and against the crossbar. The ball came back to Dimarco and he headed again for goal only for it to come off Lukaku, who was in the way.

It was easy to focus on City’s journey since the Abu Dhabi United Group takeover in 2008, not least because the owner, Sheikh Mansour, was here; it was only the second time he had watched his club in a competitive game, the first having been against Liverpool in 2010.

It was broader than that, of course, many of the travelling supporters remembering the slide into what is now League One in the 1990s, especially the darkly comic relegation from the Premier League in 1996; the diagnosis of City-itis by the former manager Joe Royle.

Look at them now under Guardiola. Inzaghi had described City as the best team in the world on Friday and there was not a murmur of dissent in the press conference room.

It is Guardiola’s second treble after the one he oversaw at Barcelona in 2008-09 – no one else has won more than one – and his third Champions League after the two with the Catalan club. At City, he now has 12 of the 17 major titles won since Mansour’s millions changed everything.

Manchester City’s players celebrate with the Champions League trophy
Manchester City’s players celebrate with the Champions League trophy. 

Guardiola had admitted that he needed the Champions League to satisfy the club’s hierarchy, maybe to cement his legacy and it was a night when victory was never certain.

All the pressure was on City, who played with Nathan Aké in for Kyle Walker at the back, and Inter were good in the first half, settling after seeing Bernardo Silva almost pick out the far, top corner early on.

City lacked aggression and tempo; Inter were polished on the ball. There were a couple of wobbles from Ederson; one pass intended for John Stones went to Nicolò Barella, who could not execute the lob from distance.

De Bruyne fed Erling Haaland on 27 minutes only for the striker to shoot at Onana. The Premier League’s top scorer might have found the far corner; it was not his night. And De Bruyne would not last much longer. He seemed to pull something and, try as he did, he could not continue.

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