Manchester City completed the treble with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul.
Rodri’s side-footed finish midway through the second half broke Inter’s resistance and though Federico Dimarco hit the crossbar with a header before Ederson saved sensationally from Romelu Lukaku, City held on to make history in the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.
Having already overhauled Arsenal to retain the Premier League trophy and beaten Manchester United to lift the FA Cup at Wembley, this victory saw them match the achievement of their city rivals in 1999. Pep Guardiola was in tears afterwards.
Man City: Ederson (8), Akanji (7), Dias (8), Ake (7), Stones (8), Rodri (9), De Bruyne (7), Gundogan (7), Haaland (7), Grealish (7).
Subs: Foden (7), Walker (7).
Inter: Onana (7), Dumfries (6), Acerbi (7), Bastoni (7), Darmian (7), Barella (7), Brozovic (7), Calhanoglu (6), Dimarco (7), Dzeko (6), Lautaro Martinez (6).
Subs: Lukaku (4), Gosens (6), Bellanova (6), Mkhitaryan (6), D’Ambrosio (6).
Player of the match: Rodri
The Catalan coach has won it all at City but this was the one they have been waiting for – champions of Europe for the first time. For Guardiola, it ends his 12-year wait to win the competition for a third time as a coach and a fourth time overall.
How Man City made history in Turkey
It was tight and it was tense. Fraught with jeopardy, of course, but difficulty too.
City’s task was made more difficult when Kevin De Bruyne trudged off injured in the first half, the second time in three seasons that he has departed a Champions League final with the game in the balance.
Ederson looked nervy early on, showing moments of sloppiness that hinted at the scale of the occasion. Rodri was misplacing passes. Erling Haaland broke clear once but his shot was saved. It was City’s best chance in the opening 45 minutes against an organised Inter.
Kyle Walker was only among the substitutes so Nathan Ake came into the Manchester City team in the only change from the two-legged semi-final against Real Madrid.
Inter went with former City striker Edin Dzeko up front partnering Lautaro Martinez. Former Manchester United duo Romelu Lukaku and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were on the bench.
The task did not become easier once Lukaku replaced Edin Dzeko and Inter could have led had Ederson not denied Lautaro Martinez from a narrow angle after Manuel Akanji inexplicably allowed the ball to run through. Guardiola was on his knees in despair.
It was joy soon after. Akanji slipped a pass through to Bernardo Silva and his cut-back deflected into the path of the oncoming Rodri. The midfielder measured his finish, bending it beyond two Inter defenders and into the corner of the net to break the deadlock.
Rodri had been left on the bench for the Champions League final against Chelsea in 2021. Not this time. His goal will rank among the most important in City’s history, a moment to rival the Sergio Aguero title-winning strike of 11 years earlier. But it was not the end.
Dimarco capitalised on uncertainty inside the City box and his looping header beat Ederson only to come back off the crossbar. The second chance looked more straightforward but this time Dimarco’s header struck the legs of Lukaku. A fortunate escape.
Lukaku had a clearer opportunity with just minutes remaining. Robin Gosens centred the ball and the striker just had to beat Ederson from close range. His header was firm but not in the corner, the goalkeeper producing an astonishing stop to keep the ball out.
It is a save that will be talked about for years. A night that will be talked about for years. Manchester City are champions of Europe.
The treble is theirs.
Man City players reflect on hard-fought win
“I was awful but I don’t care,” Jack Grealish told BT Sport afterwards. “To win the treble with this group of players is so special. This is what you work your whole life for. I am so happy.” Rodri, the scorer of the game’s only goal, expressed a similar sentiment.
“I said to myself I had to overcome the situation, the mentality. I scored a goal, unbelievable,” said the Spain international. “Finals are like this. You cannot expect to play how we normally play. But the lads competed to the end. We competed like animals.”
It was credit to Inter that City were made to look less than their best. Tactically, their head coach Simone Inzaghi had his team set up perfectly. “It was not easy. What a team we faced. The way they defended and counter-attacked was unbelievable.”
“We were not at our best in the first half of the game,” agreed Ilkay Gundogan. “We were hesitating a little. Even though we had a couple of good chances we knew we had to do better in the second half. That is what we did but still it was probably a 50-50 game.
“One goal made the difference as it does many times in finals. We feel very fortunate that it was ours.”
Guardiola: Written in the stars
“The first half we were so anxious,” Guardiola told BT Sport.
“We could not find the free man, John Stones. But it was a question of being patient. I said at half-time, last time, in Porto [in the 2021 Champions League final], we were 1-0 down, now it is 0-0. We adjusted some things but you have to be lucky in this competition.
“At the end, Ederson, they mis-hit it, they could draw, and then maybe Phil [Foden] could score the second one. This competition is a coin [toss]. But we were there. I think it was written in the stars this season that it belonged to us and we did it.”
Asked what was different about this team after years of near misses, Guardiola said: “I think we defended a little bit better in the box. We have four central defenders, proper defenders. Even when we make mistakes, we have the feeling we are solid.”
It has brought the treble. “The momentum started winning the Premier League, then the FA Cup, and now we finish here,” he added. “Winning this competition and the treble is so difficult, and that is why today is not important the way. It is just to do it.”
Man City’s treble in stats
- Manchester City have become the sixth English team to win the European Cup after Aston Villa, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Nottingham Forest – twice as many sides as any other nation.
- City are just the second English side to achieve the treble after Manchester United in 1999. It is the second time their manager Pep Guardiola has won the treble, making him the first ever manager to do so with two different clubs.
- The last four Champions League finals have all been won by a 1-0 scoreline, more than in the first 27 finals in the competition since the re-brand in 1992.
- City’s victory was their 300th across all competitions under Pep Guardiola, in what was his 413th game in charge of the club.
- Manchester City have scored 100+ goals more than they’ve conceded in three of the last five seasons – prior to Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the club, no English top-flight side had ever finished a season having scored 100+ more than they had conceded.
- Erling Haaland ended the Champions League campaign with 12 goals to his name, however he did not score in any of his final three appearances – his longest ever run of games in the competition without a goal.
- Rodri made his 52nd start of the season for Manchester City in all competitions – across Pep Guardiola’s managerial career, the only outfield player to have started more games in a single campaign under him was Lionel Messi.