Manchester City marched into the Champions League final for the second time in three seasons after outclassing holders Real Madrid 4-0 for a 5-1 aggregate victory.
Bernardo Silva’s first-half double put Manchester City in control against the 14-time European champions at a raucous Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
While an own goal by Eder Militao after the break and a late fourth from Julian Alvarez sealed the deal for Pep Guardiola’s side as they avenged last year’s bitter semi-final loss.
With Inter Milan awaiting in the final, Manchester City will now be huge favourites to finally deliver the trophy Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour has craved since buying the club in 2008, having lost to Chelsea two years ago.
Manchester City are now unbeaten in 26 home matches in the competition and that run was never in danger once Portuguese midfielder Silva whipped a shot past Thibaut Courtois in the 23rd minute.
He then headed his side’s second in the 37th minute.
The second half was almost a formality as holders Real Madrid, bidding to win the trophy for a sixth time in 10 seasons, were outplayed by a relentless City side closing in on a treble.
And there was no way back for Carlo Ancelotti’s team when Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick flicked off Militao in the 76th minute.
Alvarez put the icing on the cake of a memorable night for City with a clinical finish after coming on as a late replacement for Erling Haaland.
There was an air of expectancy and tension before kickoff inside Manchester City’s fortress.
It was even more so as the clash was billed as a de-facto final with Inter Milan, in their first final for 13 years despite a mediocre Serie A season, awaiting the winners.
The lineups were almost identical to the sizzling 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu last week, the only change being in Real Madrid’s rearguard with Militao in for Antonio Rudiger.
Just as in the Spanish capital, City took an early stranglehold with Real Madrid barely stringing two passes together and finding it almost impossible to escape their own half.
Twice inside the opening 20 minutes Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois rescued his side with saves from point-blank Haaland headers, the first a little lucky, the second miraculous.
Manchester City’s pressure was relentless though and the breakthrough was not long coming.
Silva whipped a left-footed shot past Courtois from the right edge of the penalty area – Manchester City’s eighth goal attempt in the opening 23 minutes.
It took Real Madrid half an hour to even mount an attack and even then, Manchester City’s Kyle Walker won a sprint race with Vinicius Jr to snuff out the danger.
Toni Kroos, one of five current Real Madrid players to win the trophy five times with the Spanish club, then unleashed a dipping right-foot shot.
But Manchester City keeper Ederson, who had been a spectator, touched it against the crossbar.
A one-goal advantage was always going to be dangerous against Real’s serial winners.
But Silva made sure Manchester City reached halftime with one foot in the final, reacting quickest to loop a header into the net after Ilkay Gundogan’s shot was saved.
Manchester City toyed with the 14-times champions for the rest of the half and could have been further ahead.
Real Madrid needed some magic to give themselves any hope and it almost arrived six minutes after halftime when David Alaba’s dipping free kick was acrobatically saved by Ederson.
Courtois did his best to keep Ancelotti’s side in the tie with yet another save from Haaland as the Norwegian was left waiting for his 53rd goal of an incredible season.
But any thoughts of a repeat of last year’s miraculous turnaround when Real Madrid won 6-5 on aggregate were banished when De Bruyne’s whipped free kick glanced off Militao and into the net.
Alvarez then stroked first-time into the bottom corner in stoppage time.
With their place in the Istanbul showpiece secured, Manchester City can win their fifth English Premier League title in six seasons this weekend and they also have an FA Cup final to look forward to.
Manchester City were better, deserved to win, says Ancelotti
Real Madrid coach, Carlo Ancelotti, admitted they were beaten by the better side as they suffered a painful 4-0 demolition at Manchester City on Wednesday.
The win completed a 5-1 aggregate defeat for Real Madrid in their Champions League semi-final.
Manchester City, who were beaten by Real Madrid at the same stage last season, avenged that heartbreaking defeat with a brilliant performance in front of their jubilant fans.
Only Real Madrid goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, prevented them from inflicting even more damage.
“They played better than us and deserved to win.
“They put a lot of pressure at the beginning, it worked out well for them because they made it very difficult for us to get the ball in play and they went two goals ahead.
“From then on, it was difficult to get back into the game. We tried in the second half… but it didn’t work out,” Ancelotti told reporters.
Ancelotti admitted it was a painful night but said it was too soon to analyse what had gone wrong.
“Evaluating today, at this moment, makes no sense.
“It is a defeat that hurts, it hurts a lot. But it can happen. We reached the semi-finals of the Champions League against a strong opponent, they played better and left us without a final.
“We have to learn and for the next season, to be better,” he said.
This is coming a year after winning a LaLiga and Champions League double, and becoming the first manager to capture titles in each of Europe’s top five leagues.
Ancelotti is now facing up to finishing the campaign with just a Spanish Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup to show for their efforts.
He did, however, set another record on Wednesday, becoming the coach with the most European Cup games (191), surpassing the mark set by former Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson.
But with their rivals Barcelona crowned LaLiga champions last weekend with four-games to spare, Ancelotti was left searching for a silver lining.
“I think it was a good season. We have to show up in the few games we have ahead of us.
“I think that reaching a Champions League semi-final is a success because only four teams make it to the last four,” Ancelotti said.
I had feeling Manchester City were ready to deliver, says Guardiola
Manchester City were perfectly prepared with the right mix of calmness and tension for their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, manager Pep Guardiola said on Wednesday.
The English champions dismantled the holders 4-0 with a ruthless display to secure a 5-1 aggregate win.
The result meant Manchester City secured a final berth against Inter Milan where they will bid to win European club soccer’s most prestigious trophy for the first time.
It was sweet revenge for a painful semi-final loss to Real 12 months ago.
“I had the feeling these last days that we had a mix of calm and tension to play these type of games.
“And after 10 or 15 minutes, I had the feeling that all the pain that we had, what happened last season . . . it was really tough, losing the way we lost and I think in the moment we had to swallow poison,” Guardiola told reporters.
Real Madrid knocked Manchester City out 12 months ago 6-5 on aggregate after an extraordinary late comeback.
“In sport, obviously you have another chance and when the draw was Madrid, I said, ‘Yeah, I want it’,” Guardiola said.
Bernardo Silva netted a first-half double to put City in control and, after Erling Haaland failed to convert two gilt-edged chances, Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez completed the rout.
Real Madrid arrived with history on their side as title-holders and record 14-times European champions.
But Manchester City, buoyed by an unbeaten 23-game run in all competitions, had not lost in 26 Champions League matches at the Etihad Stadium, which was a writhing sea of sky blue for the visit of the Spanish giants.
Manchester City had played the 2021 semi-final against Paris St Germain in Manchester with no fans in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This time the players stayed on the pitch long after the final whistle to celebrate, with Haaland wearing a Norwegian flag draped around his shoulders.
“(Tonight was) much, much better,” Guardiola said. “I felt, I don’t know why, you smelled that the team was ready to compete at the level that they competed today.”
City are three wins away from a treble as they play Manchester United in the FA Cup final on June 3 and could win the Premier League as early as Saturday.
“We’re closer. This season is really really good, what we’ve really done already.
“The pleasure, the joy, how much we have fun this season again and again. We make happy our fans, all around the world watching us, they see a good team playing. This is the biggest compliment,” Guardiola said.
Guardiola added that the players, staff and families would gather for a team breakfast before enjoying a day off on Thursday ahead of their preparations for their final push to clinch the English League title.
Victory over Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul on June 10 would secure the one trophy Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour has craved since buying Manchester City in 2008.
Manchester City lost to Chelsea two years ago in their only previous appearance in the final.
Manchester City matchwinner Silva hails ‘beautiful night’
Manchester City’s man-of-the-match, Bernardo Silva, hailed their Champions League semi-final thrashing of Real Madrid on Wednesday as a “beautiful” and “wonderful” night.
Silva said he was disappointed with his performance in last week’s 1-1 first-leg draw in Madrid.
So, he was thrilled to score the first two goals in the 4-0 win in Manchester that secured a 5-1 aggregate victory and a place in the Champions League final.
“It’s a beautiful night for us. We knew it was going to be tough. But to beat this Madrid team 4-0 at home, it was wonderful,” the Portuguese midfielder said.
“A wonderful feeling to be in the final again, and hopefully this time we can try and win it.
“My performance in the first game in Madrid wasn’t the one I wanted, and I wanted to try and compensate for that because I didn’t feel very good at all after the first game.
“So, here today, I had to do better for my team mates and the fans.
“We were very resilient, we very passionate and organised at the same time. I’m so, so happy with that performance,” added Silva, whose team lost the Champions League final to Chelsea two years ago.
Silva effectively won the game for City with his first-half brace, the second a clever header.
“I’m small, but I’m good with my head!” he laughed.
The English side will face Inter Milan in the final.
“They look very strong, very organised defensively and quick on the counter-attack.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to fight,” Silva said of the Italian side.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal was gracious in defeat.
“Our opponents were better than us in the second leg, they have outplayed us by a large margin. They were a superior opponent.
“We lacked a little … I wouldn’t say attitude, but we closed back down too early. After the break we had our best minutes. We’ll come back stronger.
“We knew that they are very strong at home, but after the sensations of the first leg we all thought we could play a better game,” he told reporters.
Manchester City’s Jack Grealish, who tormented the Spaniards from the wing at the Etihad Stadium, said he had always dreamed of playing in the Champions League.
“It’s unbelievable … I don’t think a lot of teams would do that to Real Madrid.
“I don’t know what it is, but it feels unstoppable,” he said.
Defender Kyle Walker, who matched Real’s speedy forward Vinicius Jr. for pace and kept him quiet all evening, said it had been a tough game.
“I thought the lads dug in well, they controlled the ball really well, especially in the first half … We got over the line and that’s the main thing,” he said.
Matching Vinicius required immense self-belief.
“You’ve got to have a little bit of arrogance, like the attackers do,” Walker said. “I always say go toe-to-toe with them, I use my pace.”