Football: Watershed win for Manchester City

Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan celebrates scoring their third goal with Kevin De Bruyne at the Champions League Group Stage in Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England.
Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan celebrates scoring their third goal with Kevin De Bruyne at the Champions League Group Stage in Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England.PHOTO: REUTERS

Stirring victory against Barca will provide stepping stone for Europe success, says Pep

LONDON • So, this was what Manchester City dreamt of when they appointed Pep Guardiola.

So, this was City finally playing as a true Guardiola team in Europe, attacking confidently, interchanging fluidly, going for the jugular, ripping an opposing defence apart and delighting their own supporters.

For City on Tuesday, registering a famous 3-1 victory over Barcelona at the Etihad Stadium in the Champions League felt like stealing some of the Catalan side's swagger too.

The roar at the final whistle was an explosion of joy.

City manager Guardiola was perfectly justified in later claiming that his side's win would prove the foundation for future Champions League success and hasten the club's process of competing alongside the finest teams in the world.

City ended a run of five successive Champions League defeats against Barcelona in stunning style as two goals from Ilkay Gundogan and a Kevin de Bruyne free kick overturned Lionel Messi's 16th goal in 14 matches against English Premier League teams.

The victory, combined with Celtic's draw at Borussia Monchengladbach, means City can qualify for the last 16 with three points in Germany on Nov 23.

Guardiola insisted his team played better with a full complement of players at the Nou Camp a fortnight ago - when they lost 4-0 - than in the opening 38 minutes at the Etihad Stadium.

But, having capitalised on a Sergi Roberto error to equalise through Gundogan, and threatened frequently in the second half, he viewed the transformation as a potential turning point in City's possibilities on the European stage.

"We are three or four months into playing a different way. Barca have been playing their way for 25 years," he said. "We won against the best team.

"For the future generation of players who come here, they are going to realise, 'Wow, these guys are able to beat the best team.'

"You need 10, 15, 20 years to stay there. We are going to reduce that time and create nights for the Manchester City fans like we did today."

Both Guardiola and his Barcelona counterpart, Luis Enrique, agreed Roberto's wayward pass and Gundogan's resulting equaliser was the turning point of the contest.

"For the first 38 minutes we saw the best team in the world," the City manager said.

"They changed their centre-backs to make diagonal balls to the fullbacks and we were in real trouble. They have the chance to score the second goal and, if they had, the game is done, finished.

"But football is like this. Our goal changed everything for our mood. The players realised the bad moment is over."

Enrique, who was without the injured defenders Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba, plus the suspended Jeremy Mathieu, concurred: "I think it was one of the best 40 minutes we have played, particularly on a stage like this against a top-quality rival.

"It is a shame after the error we made for the first goal, from then on we had a bad time."

Guardiola insisted he took no extra satisfaction from defeating the club he led to two Champions League titles, only from a victory that kept City on course to be in Europe next February when "hopefully we will be better".

THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2016, with the headline 'Watershed win for City'. Print Edition | Subscribe