The greatest hurdle of the Pep Guardiola era has finally been cleared. Manchester City progress past the Champions League quarter-finals, successful at the fifth attempt under the manager who was headhunted specifically to take further still, but their place in the semi-finals was confirmed by their most prized homegrown talent.
A sublime Phil Foden strike with a quarter of an hour to play – the young prodigy’s second crucial goal in this tie – eventually put enough distance between his boyhood club and Borussia Dortmund, to set up a meeting with Paris Saint-Germain in the last four of European football’s elite club competition.
Riyad Mahrez’s critical penalty had already restored City’s slender advantage and eased fears of a fourth straight quarter-final exit but those disappointments have taught Guardiola’s side to make sure. Foden drilled from the edge of the box against the inside of the post to secure their place.
If this thrilling two-legged contest was decided by a young talent from Stockport, it was almost turned on its head by another from Stourbridge. After being wrongly denied a first-leg goal that could have changed the complexion of this tie, Jude Bellingham gave Dortmund hope by quickly cancelling out City’s first-leg lead.
If Bellingham’s performance at the Etihad last week was not enough for those in his home country to sit up and take notice, Foden, too, has announced himself at this rarefied level, having scored the first leg’s late winner. The only golden boy to lose some of his sheen was Erling Haaland, who failed to make an impact over the two legs.
Guardiola left his galaxy brain in its vat for this one. Oleksandr Zinchenko replaced Joao Cancelo, the full-back’s form having dipped of late, but other than that this was the same line-up that started and won the first leg, even though City did not exactly have everything their own way.
Dortmund were unlucky not to take a stronger foothold into this return after some questionable officiating at the Etihad but at least had history on their side. Teams that have suffered a 2-1 defeat away from home in a Champions League first leg have progressed more often than they have been eliminated.