Paris, April 29
Neymar was delving deep into his box of tricks, the marauding Kylian Mbappe had that glint in his eye, and Manchester City’s players had been struck by a rare case of timidity.
Thirty minutes into the Champions League semifinal and the scenario Pep Guardiola had feared before the match was unfolding right before his eyes against Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes. “Everyone was playing safe, not having the personality to go and play,” Guardiola said. “That is why we were so shy.”
Indeed, with City trailing 0-1 and on the ropes early in the first leg, the one instruction Guardiola had particularly wanted to get through to his players — “Be ourselves” — was being ignored. The fullbacks, so key to City’s fluid system, were sitting back, unusually. The passes in midfield were safe. There was little ambition in an attack again featuring no recognised striker.
That City managed to turn the situation around on the biggest European night of most of its players’ careers was why Guardiola looked so proud after his team’s 2-1 win last night. A Champions League final has never been so close for the blue half of Manchester, having looked so far away at one stage. Ahead of Tuesday’s second leg at Etihad Stadium, Guardiola again doesn’t want his players to lose sight of one overarching principle. — AP/PTI