Pep Guardiola has failed in the Champions League with Manchester City once again. He is into his sixth season with the club, has spent millions on players but has still not won the ultimate prize in club football. That makes him no better than previous managers Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pelegrini who both also secured domestic silverware but ultimately failed in Europe.
Guardiola may well guide his side to another Premier League title this season but they suffered their latest dose of European disaster last night against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. And this defeat will hurt for a long time. His side were leading the semi-final 4-3 following a fascinating first leg at the Etihad but they threw it away in spectacular fashion.
It appears nothing can stop the Spaniards from winning a 14th Champions League title after pulling off a miracle to book their spot in the final. They were trailing 1-0 on the night when Riyad Mahrez looked to have settled the tie but stormed back in injury time thanks to Rodrygo’s double to make it 5-5 on aggregate. The match went into extra time and Karim Benzema delivered the killer blow from the penalty spot.
Real just do not know when they are beaten. They staged a similar comeback in the last 16 against Paris St-Germain. Benzema scored a hat-trick in the second leg when they were 2-0 down from the first – but last night’s turnaround was something else.
They did not have a single shot on target until the 90th minute and then 50 seconds later they had registered their second and both efforts went in to crush the steely City resolve.
In extra time you just knew Real would get another as by that stage Guardiola’s men were crestfallen having let such a commanding lead slip. They were so close to booking their place in the final but Carlo Ancelotti’s side produced one of the most incredible comebacks.
Repeat of 2018
They will now come up against Liverpool on May 28 at the Stade de France for what will be a mouthwatering clash. It will be a repeat of the incident-packed 2018 final which Real won 3-1 and will go into the game on a real high having just wrapped up the La Liga title but Jurgen Klopp and his Reds are aiming to create history by winning the quadruple.
But fingers must be pointed at Guardiola’s tactics for defeat last night. Real were there for the taking and had City been a bit more adventurous they may have found themselves further ahead. Instead the coach allowed his side to sit deep and play on the counter. It almost worked as the sucker punches came with almost the last kicks of the ball. But almost is never good enough and Pep will be the first to put his hand up and accept he was to blame.
Will City retain the coach who has failed to shine on the biggest stage or will they now be thinking of parting ways and trying a new approach? There are already rumours flying around that Tottenham’s Antonio Conte is being lined up to replace the Spaniard in the summer but will he be a step up? Only time will tell but the fact Pep has not been able to get City what they crave even though they have supported him through thick and thin may well mean heads will roll…