City turn on the style

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling after scoring their first goal at Sevilla's Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in Spain. Fernandinho and Wilfried Bony also netted in the 3-1 win which took City in the round of 16.
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling after scoring their first goal at Sevilla's Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in Spain. Fernandinho and Wilfried Bony also netted in the 3-1 win which took City in the round of 16.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Pellegrini gets tactics spot on in Seville and aims for a lasting run in the knockout stage

LONDON • Uefa may not believe that Manchester City's supporters are much of an advert for its premier club competition - not with all that booing of the Champions League anthem, anyway - but the same could not be said of Manuel Pellegrini's team on Tuesday night.

The Champions League has confounded City far too often for a club of such talents, but they were quite brilliant against Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Their most accomplished performance in the competition to date - a 3-1 win - helped to ease them into the knockout rounds with two games to spare.

Qualifying from the group stage has invariably been a painstaking task for City, but goals from Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho and Wilfried Bony coupled with Borussia Moenchengladbach's failure to beat Juventus, were enough to guarantee their progress with something of a flourish.

City will want to top the group now, at least in the hope of avoiding an unkind draw in the round of 16 after successive seasons playing Barcelona.

And if they play like this, there is no reason why they cannot win in Turin and at home to Moenchengladbach, and beyond that, perhaps finally make a lasting impression into the spring.

City's tactics in Europe have often appeared too naive, their performances too immature and indisciplined, but they were none of those things against Sevilla.

They were organised but adventurous, bold but shrewd, inventive but industrious.

It was a textbook example of how to play away from home in this competition, not just in the way they dismantled Sevilla's defence in a pulsating first period but the control they exhibited in closing down the game after the interval, carefully picking their moments to attack.

A blueprint for how to play in Europe? Pellegrini will certainly have a decision to make when David Silva returns from injury.

Deploying Fernando as an extra man in midfield had a liberating effect on Fernandinho, a colossus on the night, and Yaya Toure. But will the City manager dare drop one of Silva or Toure in the future to ensure that the team's spine remains suitably stiffened?

"The three midfielders played well, pressed higher and our attack was really prepared," Pellegrini said. "We played with one touch and moved into space - that was the reason we created so many chances. It was important to make changes because I was not happy with how we were playing.

"We played a very complete game in all senses. We must continue with the same personality."

Sevilla had taken City all the way before losing to Kevin de Bruyne's stoppage-time goal when the sides met at the Etihad two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Sevilla coach Unai Emery admitted the improvement in City's level of performance had just been too good for his side to handle.

"We managed to play a very good game there and limit their strengths. Their ability here was greater, but I have nothing to reproach my team for," he said.

THE TIMES, LONDON,

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2015, with the headline 'CITY TURN ON THE STYLE'. Print Edition | Subscribe