Man City show signs of breaking European glass ceiling
Instead, Manuel Pellegrini’s men flew out of the traps. Within 11 minutes City were 2-0 up in Seville and the 2,500 travelling fans’ boos for the Champions League anthem had turned to their favourite chorus of ‘Blue Moon Rising.’
City’s stock in Europe is now on the up, too. Aguero’s deputy Wiflried Bony added to the early strikes by Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho to seal a 3-1 win that sealed the English side’s passage into the last 16 with two games to spare.
The contrast between their first two goes at the Champions League, when City failed to make it out of the group, or even last season’s chastening experience when they needed wins in their last two games over Bayern Munich and Roma to make it through, is striking.
“The first feeling is ‘finally’,” said captain Vincent Kompany, one of the few City players to have lived through all the highs and lows of two league titles and constant European failure over the past four years.
A history of tough draws has seen them turfed out by Barcelona at the last 16 in each of the last two seasons having finished behind Bayern Munich in the group stages.
But for a side with City’s resources, the knockout stages should be the bare minimum and finally there is a sense of Pellegrini’s men maturing and learning from their previous disappointment.
– Compliment –
Sevilla had won their last 10 European games at home on their way to back-to-back Europa League crowns and even Barca have failed to beat them in 90 minutes on their last three encounters.
“One thing I can say about this game is that we weren’t naive,” added Kompany.
“When English teams come up against European teams we have to adapt our style, but we played in a very British way tonight because we had a big man up front with lots of running through midfield and we hurt them.”
Perhaps the greatest compliment of all came from Sevilla boss Unai Emery.
“City’s response was that of a top team in the Champions League,” he said.
“We knew they had pace on the counter attack and they were very efficient.”
It was the pace of Sterling in particular which tore the Spaniards to shreds time and again.
The English international scored his first Champions League goal, set up the second and was even applauded off by some of the Sevilla faithful when he made way for De Bruyne.
Sterling was much criticised for the manner in which he forced through a transfer from Liverpool in the summer, but he admitted it was for Champions League nights like this he made the move.
“It’s great to be part of this squad and with the players we’ve got I’m learning every day.
“I’m just glad to be here and to be able to take part in football matches like this one.”
City’s job in the group isn’t finished. They lead Italian champions Juventus by one point with the two set to meet in Turin in three weeks’ time.
Finish first in the group and the likes of Barca, Bayern and Real Madrid are unlikely to be lurking until at least the quarter-finals.
“It would be a first for us to finish first in the group and that is important,” said Kompany.
On this form and with Aguero, Silva and De Bruyne to return, it shouldn’t be the only first in City’s ascending Champions League trajectory this season.