First Istanbul, then Athens. Manchester City have bookended their summer by going from east Manchester to eastern Europe and returning with continental trophies. They added the Super Cup to the Champions League, their fourth piece of silverware of 2023, when Sevilla’s Nemanja Gudelj became the only player to miss in a penalty shootout.
Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez, Mateo Kovacic, Jack Grealish and Kyle Walker – the captain, a particularly rare penalty taker, breathed a sigh of relief when his effort squeezed under Bono – found the net in an increasingly tense shootout. There was outstanding goalkeeping in the preceding 90 minutes but neither Ederson nor Bono made a save thereafter and when Gudelj’s spot kick was a fraction high, the City celebrations began.
If Ederson was one who starred for a depleted City side, so did Cole Palmer, the youngster developing a taste for the big occasion. In two August finals, Palmer has scored two excellent goals, a Community Shield strike and a Super Cup equaliser; only Michael Owen had previously done the double of scoring in each in the same season. Each goal may have been a blow to the clubs hoping to take Palmer on loan: he is staking a case to be involved at the Etihad Stadium more often. Scorer of the Champions League final winner, Rodri, added a Super Cup assist with a deep cross. Palmer stole in at the far post to head back across goal and, buoyed by his goal, he sought a winner with a shot Bono parried, one which followed an audacious drag-back.
It was a display to suggest he can take over seamlessly from Riyad Mahrez as the goalscoring left-footed, right winger. The Algerian tweeted approvingly about the young pretender’s performance. It was nevertheless notable that City’s contingent of high-class passers was depleted since the Champions League final, with the Barcelona-bound Ilkay Gundogan, ill Bernardo Silva and injured Kevin De Bruyne all absent. It may have been reflected in a lack of creativity which, in turn, may prompt another bid for West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta.
And yet City still had the opportunity to score rather more. But they encountered wonderful resistance by the defiant Bono, who made a series of excellent saves, bookended by early and late stops from Nathan Ake, who perhaps ought to have scored with each header. City ended up with 22 shots though, from their perspective, too few from Haaland, who is still yet to score for them in a final.
They had to come from behind against underdogs. Sevilla had ensured the Super Cup would not be an all-Mancunian affair, eliminating Manchester United from the Europa League. Sevilla have lost their influential director of football, Monchi, in the summer and some players could follow but they retain a spirit that has rendered them fearsome competitors on the European stage. The energetic Lucas Ocampos was excellent, in the age when the classic No. 9 has started to look an endangered species, Sevilla got a trademark goal for a true centre-forward.
Cole Palmer’s headed equaliser capped off an incredible performance from the youngster (REUTERS)
It was a bullet header from Youssef En-Nesyri, rising above Ake to meet Marcos Acuna’s cross. Yet he and Sevilla could rue an inability to score a second when they broke at speed and with menace. En-Nesyri ought to have had a second brace against a Manchester side in 2023, spurning two chances. First, Lucas Ocampos released him on a counter-attack but Ederson saved his shot, then the Brazilian made another stop.
It amounted to a difficult full debut for Josko Gvardiol. The £77 million defender’s previous appearance in European club competition was a 7-0 defeat for Leipzig, against City. If this was less painful, City missed Ruben Dias and John Stones, who were both only on the bench after missing the win at Burnley.
For much of the match, though, City were attacking. Jose Luis Mendilibar has been billed as the Spanish Tony Pulis, a veteran relegation firefighter who is unafraid to adopt direct tactics. Sevilla were content not to have the ball; Mendilibar does not burden his side with a passing philosophy. As City had around three-quarters of possession, Sevilla were increasingly penned in.
Pressure eventually told and history was made. Guardiola had won this trophy with both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the latter courtesy of Jupp Heynckes’ treble-winning feats. He became the first manager to win the Super Cup with three different clubs. His determination was apparent: whereas in the Community Shield, he removed Haaland, in Athens, he kept 10 of the starters on for the full 90 minutes, substituting only Palmer, and three days before a clash with Newcastle. Yet winning the Champions League brought other prizes, the chance for more silverware, and City already have their first trophy of the season.