LONDON • Manuel Pellegrini acclaimed Kevin de Bruyne as "the perfect player" for Manchester City after the Belgian scored the stoppage-time winner in what their manager admitted was a fortuitous 2-1 victory over Sevilla.
De Bruyne completed City's recovery after going behind to Yevhen Konoplyanka's goal, with Pellegrini admitting "we were a little fortunate" to emerge with their second win in Group D courtesy of a goal in added time.
Pellegrini had moved de Bruyne into the centre-forward's position in the final stages of the game after taking off Wilfried Bony, whose deflected shot led to City's equaliser.
The City manager replaced the Ivorian striker with Fernando, allowing Yaya Toure to push up in support of de Bruyne. The combination worked to perfection as Toure thundered downfield before passing wide to de Bruyne out right. The Belgian cut inside and then fired home a well struck left-foot angled shot for the winner.
But Pellegrini played down the significance of his tactical switch. Instead, he gave credit to the Belgian, a £54 million (S$116.2 million) summer signing from Wolfsburg.
"We bought Kevin because we thought he was a very creative player, he has goals in him and because this team always tries to play attractive and offensive football and, for that, you need good players," explained the Chilean.
"In all senses he was the perfect player to arrive (at) our team. I think it's very important for him (to score). We tried to make some changes because we weren't arriving into their box or creating chances, which is why we put Kevin up front and fortunately we created the play that produced the goal."
Pellegrini also hailed his side's character, particularly after they have come under criticism for their failures in Europe. City have never progressed beyond the round of 16 in the Champions League.
"I think these games reflect we have the character to try to win," he said of the victories over Borussia Moenchengladbach and Sevilla."We will try to improve our play but the character, concentration and intensity to win in Europe is also very important."
City will travel to Spain to meet Sevilla again on November 3 but first they go to Old Trafford on Sunday to play Manchester United in their first derby of the season.
"When you win it's very important for the confidence of the players to be going into an important game like the derby," Pellegrini said. "It's a very tight group, with nine points more to play for, but it's important now to recover and have a good performance in the Premier League."
Pellegrini will be missing Sergio Aguero and David Silva and the City manager would not be drawn when he was asked whether he would recall his captain Vincent Kompany.
Pellegrini is angry that Kompany played for Belgium when he was recovering from a hamstring injury and has left him out ever since despite saying before the match against Bournemouth last Saturday that he was fully fit again.
"Vincent is coming back from a long injury after a month out so it was a risk to give him this responsibility in an important game," Pellegrini said. "Every game I try to pick the team that I think is ready or better to play."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS