The 2023 UEFA Champions League final build-up was all about one man: Erling Braut Haaland, and for good reason too, as his 52-goal return all season was nothing short of remarkable.
One very good thing about having a figurehead in the shape of Haaland is that it gives other players the chance to move into spaces and cause damage—this was exactly what happened.
Spanish International, Rodri, fired in the lone goal from the edge of the box to break Inter’s hearts.
The impressive Onana in the Inter Milan goal had no answer to the fierce drive from Rodri.
City’s Route To the 2023 Champions League Final
Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla made up Manchester City’s very difficult group this season, but based on their 14 points and the fact that they only allowed two goals in their six group games, you probably wouldn’t know the group was that difficult.
As they have done with the majority of their tasks this season, City breezed through the challenging Group G, defeating Sevilla both at home and away by an aggregate score of 7-1 and defeating BVB and Copenhagen at the Etihad Stadium to secure their position in the knockout stages.
In the knockout stages, the German club, RB Leipzig, held them to a 1-1 drawn game, and the return leg at the Etihad was one that everyone looked forward to.
But it appeared to be the ‘easiest match’ they played all season, given the 7-0 trashing of the Die Roten Bullen.
The excellent Erling Haaland tied a record with five goals in the 7-0 victory and became only the third player in tournament history to score five goals in a single game.
Many had said the Quarter Final would be their ‘last stop’ as they came up against Bayern Munich, with the first leg at the Etihad, a game they defied the odds to win 3-0.
The second leg would be a difficult one for them given Bayern rarely loses at home, but the impressive City held the German club to a 1-1 draw to match on.
Their semi-final match wasn’t any easier as they came up against Real Madrid, a club that could actually do nothing all season but will almost always end up winning the Champions League, so would Madrid beat City to the 2023 Champions League Final?
Well, judging by the first leg score line, which stood at 1-1 at the Bernabeu, City had their work cut out: Win it at home, and win at home they did.
They won the second leg 4-0.
Manchester City were heartbreakingly eliminated by eventual champions, Real Madrid, in the semifinals of the 2021/22 Champions League season.
There were not to be denied this time.
Goals from Manuel Akanji, and Julian Alvarez, and a brace from Bernardo Silva, were enough to help City advance to the final at 14-time winners, Real Madrid’s expense.
While Manchester City were making their way to the final, there was Inter advancing from a group that contained Bayern, FC Barcelona, and Viktoria Plzen.
They weren’t given any chance, as Barca and Bayern were thought to be the clubs to advance at their expense. Odds defied.
They made their way out of the group.
In the Round 16, and quarter Finals, they eliminated two Portuguese giants in the shape of Porto and Benfica respectively.
Inter’s Semi-Final game against city rivals AC Milan, was one that many looked forward to.
Which of the Milan clubs makes it to the 2023 Champions League Final?
Inter Milan, it was!
They beat their city rivals, AC Milan, over two legs in a 3-0 aggregate, to advance.
So, the Final was set!
Manchester City, the 2021 losing finalist, came against Inter Milan, at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey–a stadium that seats nearly 77,000; a full house was expected for the much anticipated 2023 UEFA Champions League Final.
City had lost the top match against Chelsea in their first UCL final back in 2021.
Chelsea won that match because of a goal from Kai Havertz in the first half.
However, with the addition of Erling Haaland to their ranks this season, City appeared to be even more threatening.
52 goals have been scored by the Norwegian, Haaland, this season–12 of which have come in the Champions League.
Inter tried hard to contain Pep Guardiola’s team as they played the Citizens for the first time in a competitive match on the largest stage conceivable.
The Italian powerhouse, Inter Milan, received encouragement as well since Ederson struggled at times, as Nicola Barella’s attempt curled wide after the Brazilian’s pass skipped John Stones.
Even when City had their go-to creator on the field, Simone Inzaghi’s team had proven difficult to break down, and Inter continued to match their opponent with defending that was courageous and organized in equal measure before halftime and into the second half.
However, the evening was all about City and the accomplishment of a goal that Guardiola has ardently pursued since moving to the Etihad Stadium: lifting Europe’s finest club trophy.
The star of the 2023 Champions League final?
Not the 52-goal hero, Erling Braut Haaland.
City sealed the famous treble with a spectacular 1-0 victory in Istanbul thanks to Rodri’s second Champions League goal of his career.
Seven days after City’s FA Cup victory over Manchester United, the Premier League champions defeated Inter Milan in the Champions League final.
Only the second English team in history—Pep Guardiola’s class of 2023—has won the FA Cup, European Championship, and English Premier League all in the same season.
The other team to do that?
Manchester United. The Red Devils did so in 1999.
Even though Haaland did not score on the night, his 12 goals in the Champions League were enough to see him clinch the CL Golden Boot.
Having won the EPL Golden Boot also, Erling Braut Haaland made history after winning Golden Boot in both the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League.
City celebrate at last.
Guardiola got his wish at last.