On the fifth time he asked, Pep Guardiola has guided Manchester City to a Champions League semi-final when they saw Borussia Dortmund and the demons from previous quarter-final disappointments on Wednesday
Attention will now turn to a semi-final conflict with the Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain, which will be a meeting of two projects funded by investment in the Middle East.
But for all the money invested by City’s Abu Dhabi owner, it was a product of the club’s youth academy, Phil Foden, who came with the goods when the nerves of Guardiola’s men were struck.
Foden’s 90-minute strike in last week’s first leg against Dortmund gave City a narrow 2-1 lead to take to Germany.
However, this was interrupted by a new budding young English star when the 17-year-old Jude Bellingham’s first Champions League goal gave Dortmund a 1-0 lead at night and the advantage of a draw on away goals.
When the chances came and went before half-time, Guardiola would have been forgiven for having a fear that history would repeat itself.
City have bowed out for away goals twice in their previous four seasons, while a combination of controversial refereeing talks and defensive mistakes cost them three consecutive quarter-finals to Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon.
But this time City’s turn turned when a Foden cross was handled by Emre Can into the box and VAR did not intervene to overthrow the Spanish referee Carlos del Cerro Grande.
“This competition is nice but at the same time so unfair, because when you are out it is considered a disaster when you play 11 months for the league, FA Cup, League Cup, for everything,” said Guardiola, whose side remains the course for it first quadruple ever in English football history.
“Today was a penalty with one hand and maybe could not be given. We were out against Tottenham (2019) for a hand by (Fernando) Llorente that was not given.”
“A guy who never hides”
A missed penalty also cost City in the match against Tottenham, but this time Riyad Mahrez converted the spot kick.
The foot then took center with a powerful drive in from inside the post 15 minutes from time to guarantee City’s place in the last four for the second time in its history.
By scoring, the 20-year-old also became the second player under the age of 21 to score in both legs in a Champions League quarter-final after Kylian Mbappe, whom he will face in the semi-finals.
“You have a feeling he’s a guy who never hides,” Guardiola said of Foden.
“He always creates something. He is dynamic offensively, defensively and in the small spaces.”
The foot also provided what City needed as he is a new face, unloaded by previous Champions League failures.
Ilkay Gundogan admitted that the current Premier League leaders “were afraid of losing something” in a slow start that allowed Dortmund to take the lead.
The relief of turning around what could have been a new European nightmare was clear when Foden ran into the arms of Guardiola and was overcome by celebrating teammates after the second goal.
“For the club, it is so important,” said Guardiola, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss. “We can not deny it. This competition is tough mentally.
“You work for ten months and for a goal. One mistake, you’re out.”