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 win.
The treble winners add the Uefa Super Cup to the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League and if the Club World Cup is won in December they will have claimed five of a possible six trophies in a year – the Community Shield having eluded them due to the spot-kick loss to Arsenal.
Erling Haaland, Julián Álvarez, Mateo Kovacic, Jack Grealish and Kyle Walker were the City men 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.
City had been under par throughout against Sevilla whose 12th-place finish last term with a goal difference of minus seven, would have cast their triumph as a “major upset”. But, as champion teams do, City found a way.
Seconds after equalising, Palmer went close to the winner but his bending shot was beaten away by Yassine “Bono” Bounou, the Sevilla goalkeeper, who was excellent throughout.
José Luis Mendilibar’s men were far better than City and they could curse their luck at being taken to spot-kicks.
Twenty-seven degrees the mercury read on a sweltering night in the port city of Piraeus where Érik Lamela’s sighter, which rolled past Ederson’s right post, was an opening act.
Palmer, perhaps benefiting from Riyad Mahrez’s summer departure, was on the right and he provided City’s riposte, the youngster dipping infield and testing Bono, 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.
So early on, it was breathless from Guardiola’s men, who love to dominate and squash opponents relentlessly. Phil Foden was selected in the place of Kevin De Bruyne – out injured long term – and he drifted into pockets, knitting the play.
Foden featured in a sequence that climaxed with 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 more finely tuned: his effort required the busy Bono to tip out for a corner which Sevilla repelled. The Spaniards 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 much to break the spell.
What they needed was a City error as when Kovacic, near the Sevilla area, ceded the ball carelessly, much to Guardiola’s visible chagrin. And then it was the Croatian who missed a raking ball out that led to the first goal. From here, Marcos Acuña received the ball on the left, he chipped in and Youssef 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, Oliver Torres fed 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 Frenchman 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 despite late threats from a Rodri header that was deflected over, a Manuel Akanji shot blocked in the area and crosses from Foden and Grealish that begged to be finished.
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 his cross was ineffective.
The treble winners are vulnerable to the break and after Walker missed a tackle on Ocampos the winger skated along the left and rolled in a precise ball for En-Nesyri: the Moroccan’s shot hit Ederson’s body and City escaped.
This was along the left and the same Ocampos-En-Nesyri combination soon had the No 9 in again but, again, he failed to take advantage.
Guardiola was in head-clutching mode and, next, Jordán fired a freekick at Ederson. The Brazilian held this but it was from Sevilla’s 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.
The absences of Ilkay Gündogan – now at Barcelona –De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva – who was ill – were evident. Each of these can define a contest and when Guardiola looked at his bench there was no one of their ilk. Foden can change games but was peripheral, because City had become strangers to controlled possession.
They have spirit, though, as shown by Palmer’s equaliser: Rodri curled the ball to the far post and the 21-year-old ghosted in to head past Bono. Haaland, Kovacic, Walker, Grealish and Foden then all put Sevilla under pressure but those in red, too, peppered City’s area, in what was a riveting finish.