Sterling show from City, despite being without Aguero and Silva
City show their strength in depth in the absence of Aguero and Silva
(Benoit Tremoulinas 25)
MAN CITY 3
(Raheem Sterling 8, Fernandinho 11, Wilfried Bony 36)
Not too often can one describe a Manchester City performance in the Champions League as "perfect" or "complete".
Their displays have seldom matched the fanfare.
Yet, manager Manuel Pellegrini and captain Vincent Kompany were spot on when they hailed the 3-1 away win over Sevilla yesterday morning (Singapore time).
That it was achieved without David Silva and Sergio Aguero - arguably the Premiership's best playmaker and striker respectively - made the victory all the more remarkable.
The Citizens left the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan finally looking like a team ready to live up to the hype.
They had gumption and guile.
And they had Raheem Sterling.
Without Silva and Aguero, the 20-year-old forward has planted himself firmly in the limelight, whether he played on the flanks or in the middle.
In the absence of the key duo, City have collected seven points out of a possible nine in the Premier League - including one earned away in the Manchester Derby, reached the League Cup quarter-finals and completed the double over Europa League winners Sevilla in the Champions League.
Previously, there had been complaints of City lacking pace especially in the wide areas during counter-attacks.
Sterling has taken care of the problem, and it was his blistering start to yesterday morning's game that gave City the winning momentum.
He provided penetration from the flanks and humiliated the Sevilla defence, in particular captain and fullback Coke.
Class has its way of finding an appreciative audience anywhere.
The applause from the Sevilla fans when Sterling was substituted in the 73rd minute summed up a brilliant display.
City then demonstrated incredible strength in depth by replacing Sterling with Belgian bomber Kevin de Bruyne, who like Sterling, has made a bright start to his career in Manchester.
Four minutes from time, it was England international Fabian Delph's turn to be introduced.
In a game which they were already shorn of their two best players, Pellegrini's wealth of options on the bench would surely have made his counterpart Unai Emery green with envy.
While his club's superior spending power clearly gives him an advantage, Pellegrini still had tactical decisions to make against experienced European campaigners and, on this occasion, he made the right call.
Deploying Fernando in a defensive-midfield role freed Yaya Toure and Fernandinho of their defensive duties.
The drive and aggression of Fernandinho in the attacking third of the field, in particular, would not have been lost on the Chilean.
City's defeat by Juventus on Matchday One had suggested more of the same.
But their most complete display in Europe yesterday morning has renewed hopes of making a long overdue impact on the playground of the truly big boys.
They were 2-0 up within 11 minutes, courtesy of Sterling's opener and Fernandinho's header.
By the 15th minute, they already had eight shots, six of which were on target.
Even striker Wilfried Bony got into the act, restoring City's two-goal cushion on 36 minutes after Benoit Tremoulinas had pulled one back for Sevilla.
City are through to the Round of 16 with two games to spare.
They are in the driver's seat to top a group they currently lead, a crucial factor in the equation for the knock-out stage draw.
The Citizens may have finally found their mojo in Europe.
Being at a club like this with the players they have got, it’s a learning process every day and I am happy to be developing as a player and play in matches like these.
— Man City’s Raheem Sterling
I think Fernandinho is very dangerous because he has a lot of pace and he arrives in the other box. He and Sterling had a very good performance, as did all the players.
— Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini praising Fernandinho and Sterling
BY THE NUMBERS
Man City are the first team to score three goals in an away match at Sevilla in European competition (excluding qualifying rounds).
Pellegrini wants more from 'complete' City
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has urged his players to maintain the standards they set in sweeping aside Sevilla 3-1 to seal their place in the Champions League last 16 yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Despite their vast resources, City have struggled to make an impact in the Champions League, losing to Barcelona in the last 16 in the two previous seasons they have made it to the knockout stage.
However, they produced arguably their best European display under Pellegrini, as early goals from Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho fired the visitors into a 2-0 lead after just 11 minutes.
Benoit Tremoulinas pulled a goal back for Sevilla, but Wilfried Bony restored City's two-goal lead before the break and Pellegrini's men squandered several more chances in the second half against a Sevilla side who had won their previous 10 European games at home.
"I am very happy because I think we played a complete game. We were good physically, technically and tactically," said Pellegrini.
"We defended very well, we scored three goals and missed four or five clear chances to score more.
"The most important thing is to keep playing the way we did today.
"I hadn't been happy with the way we had been playing, even when we were winning. Today, it was different and that is how we must continue."
Victory takes City a point ahead of Juventus at the top of Group D with the two set to meet in Turin in three weeks' time.
Pellegrini is eager to top the group and avoid another clash with one of Europe's elite in the last 16.
"It is important to be qualified two games before, but we want to qualify first in the group. After that, we need luck with the draw," the Chilean said.
City captain Vincent Kompany hailed the growing maturity of his side to have qualified from a tough group with two games to spare.
NOT DONE YET
However, he also warned that their job is not done with the visit to Juventus and a home game against Borussia Moenchengladbach to come.
He said: "It would be a first for us to finish first in the group and that is important.
"We've been unlucky in the draws before and we need to make sure we can reach the first spot now."
Sevilla coach Unai Emery admitted that his side were unable to handle a much-improved City.
"We managed to play a very good game and limit their strengths. Their ability here was greater, but I have nothing to reproach my team for," he said.
"We knew they had pace on the counter-attack and they were very efficient.
"City's response was that of a top team in the Champions League." - AFP.
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