Muhammad Ali y George Foreman disputed on October 30, 1974 one of the most famous and expected duels, which Norman Mailer He masterfully immortalized in ‘The combat’. The two fighters had not faced each other until then, just like Zinedine Zidane he had not been measured as a coach Pep Guardiola until the hype of eighths decided to cross their paths. The Catalan coach won the first round at the Bernabéu, but the final round has been made to wait even longer than the epic duel in Zaire, if postponed a month due to Foreman’s injury.
In the five months since that initial ’round’, Guardiola had been able to focus, without the distraction of a lost Premier, in this clash between the winners of five of the last 11 Champions. If Foreman reached the heart of darkness undefeated after 40 games, no one had been able to eliminate Zidane in Europe since, after three crowns, he retired as champion. Until Zinedine Foreman ran into Pep Ali.
Unlike that mythical fight, in the Etihad there were no massive shouts of “Ali bomaye” but empty stands and only the voices of substitutes and trainers. If Muhammad took refuge that memorable night on the ropes to tire Foreman before knocking him out, Guardiola stayed true to his style and was aggressive from the get-go and after nine minutes he sent his rival to the canvas. The extremely high pressure from City took effect and Gabriel Jesus He beat Varane, who made the night bitter, to give Sterling the pass of death.
Grogui a quarter of an hour, Madrid woke up from the hand of Benzema. Ederson saved the first direct, but his gloves no longer repelled the Frenchman’s header. After the blow, City recovered dancing with the ball until the break. Featherweight Foden, false nine like Messi in the evening of 2-6, he was about to take advantage of a bad hit by Courtois, who instead took quick fists to avoid the Olympic goal of an omnipresent De Bruyne.
Guardiola was leading the points after Courtois repelled Sterling’s hooks and a very hard direct from Gabriel Jesús. The Brazilian would confirm that it was Pep’s best blow minutes later when he charged again against Varane, whose legs weakened as if he were a first-time fighter, to deliver the final punch to a Madrid that was failing his physique.
“This defeat for me is mine. I have the responsibility in the defeat. The mistakes are paid very dearly. It is a complicated night for me. Today I have failed and I have to assume it,” said Varane after the game.
Zidane, without the punch of Cristiano Ronaldo (also eliminated this Friday), desperately tried a triple change but the fight was already decided. He will have to show that he can win the Champions League without CR7, just as Guardiola has been looking for since 2011 to conquer without that Messi floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Now, the former Barça coach is just three rounds away from achieving it.