MANCHESTER City boss Manuel Pellegrini believes his side proved a point to their detractors after completing an unlikely Champions League resurrection with victory against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico last night.
A blockbuster strike from Samir Nasri and a late Pablo Zabaleta goal secured their progress to the knockout phase as City become only the third team in history to qualify having had two points or less after the first four group games.
Pellegrini was without a host of key players, although the Chilean hopes captain Vincent Kompany will be available for Saturday’s trip to Leicester, while his thoughts are now firmly focused on reeling in Chelsea’s lead at the Premier League summit.
“I didn’t want to complain about the players who are not in our team,” he said. “We had to decide whether playing without Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero is difficult for a team or if we can play exactly the same. I had a lot of trust.
“I think this team deserves more credit than it gets from the press. It was all Sergio and all because of Sergio. But now Sergio is not playing and we have qualified.
“Now we must think about the Premier League and we have to try to discount the points that leaders Chelsea have at the top of the table. We are just three points behind them.”
Roma made the livelier start and had the visiting defence scrambling in the opening stages, epitomised by Jose Holebas turning inside Zabaleta only to be thwarted by City’s stand-in skipper Joe Hart.
Former Arsenal misfit Gervinho flattered to deceive during a two-year spell in north London but forced Hart into evasive action after 21 minutes following a driving run at City’s retreating backline, England’s No1 tipping a vicious, low effort around the post.
A slick move involving Jesus Navas and Nasri ended with Edin Dzeko scooping over, while Roma keeper Morgan de Sanctis was smartly off his line to deny James Milner.
Hart palmed away a Miralem Pjanic drive as the hour mark approached, despite City enjoying territorial advantage in the second period without asking too many questions of De Sanctis.
That all changed in the 60th minute when Nasri, making his 50th Champions League appearance, thrashed a right-footed pile-driver from 25 yards into the Italian’s net via De Sanctis’s right-hand post.
With Bayern Munich comfortably beating CSKA Moscow a score draw would still have seen City through but a sprawling Hart turned Kostas Manolas’s header onto the post while Martin Demichelis cleared a Mattia Destro attempt off the line.
City sealed their march to the last 16 when Nasri set up Zabaleta to caress the ball beyond De Sanctis for his first-ever Champions League strike.