Pep Guardiola praised Riyad Mahrez’s appetite for the big occasion after the Manchester City winger’s brace took a 2-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain and a place in the Champions League final.
Mahrez’s free-kick sealed a 2-1 win at Parc des Princes in last week’s first leg and he scored a goal in each half on Tuesday to close a 4-1 aggregate triumph.
The former Leicester City frontrunner has found things difficult at times since joining City in 2018, but he is now a go-to choice for Guardiola, with his four goals and two assists in this season’s competition putting the club at a Champions League elusive glory match. .
“Riyadh is an extraordinary player – great talent, great quality, especially in big games, he’s always ready,” city manager Guardiola said in a post-match press conference.
“We know its quality very well. He’s a fantastic player.
“The players in these stages are judged how they perform in the biggest scenarios, the big tests.
“He loves her and appreciates her. He scored a good goal, the first with the right foot and the finish for the second. Three goals in the draw, he deserves big compliments.
7 – Manchester City have won their last seven UEFA Champions League games; the longest victory ever for an English team in European Cup / Champions League history. Historical. pic.twitter.com/zpfRj8kLjC
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 4, 2021
Fernandinho was a surprise selection on his 36th birthday, but Guardiola felt the club captain excelled.
“Especially in the second half, he was incredible,” said Guardiola. “We have adjusted a little [at half-time] to support John [Stones] and Ruben [Dias].
“He was so good, really, really good. It was her birthday, a big present. He’s been an amazing captain this season, leading us through bad times and he’s played really well.
Guardiola admitted it was strange to play such a key game behind closed doors, even though it has now been a reality of the coronavirus pandemic for almost a year.
Ahead of the game, a group of City fans – some with flares – gathered to greet the team’s ground bus.
“I have to say it was socially distant, but we loved it,” Guardiola said. “It’s good to be in the final but we missed them.”
“Of course it was so weird playing the Champions League semi-final in an empty stadium.
“The club belongs to the people, that’s for sure. We’re here for a while but the fans are still staying. I’m pretty sure they’re so proud.