The pinnacle was reached a few minutes before midnight. It did not come as Manchester City might have dreamed, at the fantastical climax of some wondrous, intricate move, but with something more arbitrary, more human: A minor error, little more than a technical fault, levered open and swiftly punished, at the doorway between one day and the next.

A decade and a half since City’s lightning-strike purchase by an investment vehicle fronted by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, the most ambitious project soccer has ever seen finally had found its ultimate form, its inevitable conclusion.

City had long ago established itself as English soccer’s dominant force. It had claimed five of the last six Premier League titles. It had won the FA Cup this season, too. Now, at last hurdle, it had broken the resistance of Inter Milan, the last of Europe’s grand old houses to stand in its path. Victory in the Champions League, the one trophy it had not yet claimed and the moment it had craved more than any other, was at hand.