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Man City prove you don’t have to be ‘fun’ to be good in PSG victory

Manchester City’s 2-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final has caused a little bit of a divide on Twitter.

Was it one of the best performances an English side has ever offered up in Europe? Or was it another shocking showing on the biggest stage from Pep Guardiola? Regardless of which side of the fence you sat, the internet was coming for you…as per.

Truthfully, this was not even close to one of City’s most exciting performances, but why does that mean it wasn’t impressive?

Riyad Mahrez, Leandro Paredes
City were forced to change tack | Alex Grimm/Getty Images

For the first 45 minutes, City were all at sea and were deservedly behind at the break. They were their typical all-action selves but were consistently getting mauled by PSG’s high press. They could not continue in the same way, and to Guardiola’s credit, they didn’t.

When they came out for the second half, City were not as gung-ho. Not every possession needed to end up as a goal. Instead, it was all about controlling the game and waiting for the perfect moment to find their opportunity at goal. A different kind of class.

Everyone in City blue sacrificed some physical effort in favour of mental awareness, keeping the ball with outstanding ease and ensuring Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria – perhaps the best trio on the planet these days – disappeared.

Pep Guardiola
Guardiola was forced into an urgent re-think | Pool/Getty Images

The realisation came about that PSG cannot hurt you if they don’t have the ball. It’s a simple idea but one that most top sides don’t like to accept. City usually take the standpoint that scoring ten goals is the best way to win, but this time, it was about stopping PSG from scoring ten.

Adding an extra layer of maturity and patience, City chose to slow things down and focus on possession. Instead of taking risks, they would control the ball and wait for an opening.

PSG have been accused of losing their heads in the second half, with some saying that’s why City got back into the game.

Yeah, they did blow it, but only because City made them.

City frustrated them from minute 45 to minute 90, keeping the ball away from their in-form opponents. They were the bigger boys on the playground not letting anyone else play with their ball, and after so long of watching on from the sidelines, PSG snapped.

Keylor Navas fluffed a cross for City’s opener and then conceded an abysmal free-kick from Riyad Mahrez which made its way through the PSG wall like the players were paper. As the clock ticked on, Idrissa Gueye was shown a straight red for a naughty tackle on Ilkay Gundogan.

PSG lost all composure, but that only came about because of City’s excellence after the break.

City showed a different side of themselves | ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/Getty Images

To some fans, this was dull and boring. It was Metapod vs Metapod from the OG Pokemon series. Not a lot happened, and from a City perspective, the quality in front of goal was not there. It was traded for quality everywhere else.

Guardiola won’t care. He may have had to betray his core beliefs, but he’s now got one foot in the Champions League final as a result. Not a bad trade.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

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