Champions League final: Stubborn Inter just can’t stop all-conquering, treble-winning Manchester City

Inter gave their all in Istanbul and gave Manchester City their share of problems, but Simone Inzaghi's side just couldn't find a way to beat Ederson and fell to defeat in the Champions League final.

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ATATURK OLYMPIC STADIUM (Istanbul): Whether it was a dream or an obsession, Pep Guardiola’s pursuit of his third Champions League trophy as a manager finally came to an end as Manchester City completed a magnificent treble by beating Inter 1-0 at the end of a hard-fought final. Rodri, left out of the Man City side that lost the 2021 final, proved decisive with a second-half goal that was the difference between the two sides.

Simone Inzaghi’s side had wasted a great chance through Lautaro Martinez moments before Man City’s goal and their following attempts in the closing stages saw Ederson shine as he denied his opponents several times, also due to lack of precision from the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Federico Dimarco.

Rodri celebrates scoring for Manchester City in the Champions League final. (@ManCity)

Inter managed Manchester City threat well

The opening stages in Istanbul resembled a chess match. Manchester City appeared careful to trigger their press at the right moment, probably aware of Inter’s ability to exploit space on a counterattack, as Guardiola himself underlined in the pre-match press conference.

However, a moment of brilliance from Bernardo Silva almost led to a City opener after six minutes, as he broke inside the box from the left and took on his direct opponent before curling a left-footed effort that went wide at the far post.

However, Inter’s tight marking on the likes of Erling Haaland and Rodri, coupled by a growing intensity, saw them limit their opponents and close in on Citizens’ box more frequently, although their clear supremacy in the stands in terms of noise levels wasn’t enough to inspire a real scoring chance for the Italians.

While Guardiola’s outfit seemed to struggle to take control of the game in their usual fashion, they still gave the feeling of being able to break the balance with a sudden spark out of nothing.

That was further confirmed when, just as Inter seemed as solid as ever, Haaland was fed by Kevin De Bruyne, took on Alessandro Bastoni and found space to hit an effort that Andre Onana stopped with his left wrist, denying Man City’s best chance of the night by that point.

The opportunity came minutes before the hour-mark and, as much as it evidenced how Manchester City were regaining control of the contest, they suffered a huge blow shortly after when De Bruyne was forced out and replaced by Phil Foden after picking up an injury.

Lautaro, Lukaku and Dimarco came up short

Challenges from both sides became increasingly tough as the second half began and although Guardiola’s side kept looking threatening, the Nerazzurri players remained focused and quick to double up every time a space was created.

Inter and Manchester City in the Champions League final. [@Inter_en]

Eventually, Inter mustered a chance of their own and that was massive, but Lautaro Martinez lacked the clarity of mind to raise his head and find a free teammate in the box, instead shooting at Ederson from a tight angle, wasting their best opportunity.

Romelu Lukaku had replaced Edin Dzeko moments before, but the Belgian didn’t provide Inter with the depth they hoped to find and Man City’s mounting pressure eventually led to a breakthrough when Bernardo Silva’s cross from the byline was deflected and fell to Rodri, allowing him to fire the ball home to put his side ahead.

In what would have been a crazy plot twist, Inter could have equalised even before having the time to process the disadvantage, but when Federico Dimarco’s header in a packed box came off the downside of the bar, his second heading attempt just a few steps from the goal was sent straight at Lukaku’s legs.

Inter’s Federico Dimarco on the ball in the Champions League final. [@Inter_en]

Man City didn’t take advantage of the spaces Inter left in the attempt to fight back and were almost punished for that. But Lukaku came up short at the most important moment as his header from point-blank range was just too close to Ederson.

Although the thought of that moment will linger on Lukaku’s mind for a while to come, it wasn’t even the last chance of the game for the Nerazzurri as Ederson was forced to make yet another save following the final corner kick of the game.

In the end, Inter fell just short but with their heads held high. Few people gave them a prayer in Istanbul but they gave the treble-winning English champions a real test.

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