Manchester City’s tilt at a clean sweep of continental and world club trophies remains alive after Nemanja Gudelj suffered the heartbreak of a missed fifth penalty in the shootout to hand Pep Guardiola’s side a 5-4 triumph.
The treble winners add the Uefa Super Cup to the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League and if the Club World Cup is collected in December, they will have claimed five of a possible six trophies in a year – the Community Shield having eluded their grasp due to the spot-kick loss to Arsenal.
Erling Haaland, Julian Álvarez, Mateo Kovacic, Jack Grealish and Kyle Walker were the City players who returned a perfect score in the penalties, after Cole Palmer’s 63rd-minute header finally pegged back Sevilla, whose lead derived from Youssef En-Nesyri.
Guardiola stated this could be the 21-year-old’s final act in a City shirt. “The opinion of him is that he wanted to leave but now I don’t know” Guardiola said. “I don’t think it will be a loan – either he stays or we sell. He showed character – he played well and made a fantastic goal too.”
When Rodri curled a cross over from the left for Palmer’s header the youngster yelled at Haaland to leave it. “Yeah, I said my name, he’s gone to head it and ducked and I was just there to finish it,” he said.
Twenty-seven degrees read the mercury on a sweltering night in the port city of Piraeus where Palmer, benefiting from Riyad Mahrez’s summer exit, operated along the right and from there he provided City’s opening salvo, by dipping infield and testing Yassine “Bono” Bounou, who collected. Palmer then teed up Nathan Aké: his cross dropped where the defender could head, via the floor, on target, Sevilla’s goalkeeper again doing enough.
Early on, it was breathless from Guardiola’s men, who love to dominate and squash opponents. Phil Foden was selected in place of the long-term injured Kevin De Bruyne and he drifted into pockets, knitting the play. Foden featured in a sequence that culminated in Walker slicing the ball towards Grealish. The wide man did not challenge Bono yet the latter fisted away and Josko Gvardiol, on his full debut, sprayed a shot over.
Grealish’s radar, moments later, was calibrated far better: his effort required the busy Bono to tip out for a corner which Sevilla repelled. The Spanish side were stuck in a type of Groundhog Day familiar to many of City’s opponents: knowing precisely the fluid moves that would be fashioned before them but unable to do anything to break the spell.
What they needed was a City error as when Kovacic, near the Sevilla area, ceded possession carelessly, much to Guardiola’s chagrin. Then it was the Croatian who missed a raking ball out that led to the opener. From here, Marcos Acuña received the ball on the left, he chipped in, and En-Nesyri beat Aké and Gvardiol to head home, off Ederson’s right-hand post.
A Foden miscontrol and a wild Gvardiol delivery followed; suddenly Sevilla were in charge. Ivan Rakitic pinged a 40-yard pass to Lucas Ocampos, the play switched back to the right, Óliver Torres fed Érik Lamela and he blazed wide.
Better, from last season’s winners of the Champions League, was the Rodri ball that caused Loïc Badé to yank the muted Haaland over, which meant a booking for the French defender and a free-kick 25 yards out. Foden smashed this into the wall – more exactly, Joan Jordán’s face – and so Sevilla were in front at half-time.
City were as becalmed as they can be. A Rakitic free-kick into the area was speared at En-Nesyri and co and dealt with and, moving upfield, Palmer tapped to Kovacic but the cross was ineffective as they are to the counter. Walker missed a tackle on Ocampos, the winger skated along the left, and rolled over a precise ball for En-Nesyri: the Moroccan’s shot hit Ederson’s body and City escaped. Guardiola was in head-clutching mode and Jordán fired a free-kick at Ederson. The Brazilian keeper held it but this was from the Sevilla left once more.
City had to stem this and fight their way back into a match that, according to the received wisdom, they should have been dominating. Here, the absences of Ilkay Gündogan (now at Barcelona), De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva (who is ill) were evident.
Each of these three can define a contest and when Guardiola looked at his bench there was no one of their ilk. Foden can turn games but was peripheral, largely because City had become strangers to controlled possession.
They have spirit, though, as shown by Palmer’s equaliser, a header which allowed Bono no chance.
Kovacic, Walker, Grealish and Foden then all put Sevilla under pressure. But those in red peppered City’s area, too, in what was a riveting finish.