Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini expressed his pride after the club reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in their history by edging past a subdued Paris Saint-Germain last night.
A composed finish from £55m record signing Kevin de Bruyne spared the potential blushes of the usually dependable Sergio Aguero, who fluffed a first-half penalty and the chance to ease palpable tension around the Etihad Stadium.
The north-west club are in the hat for Friday’s semi-final draw along with 10-time European champions Real Madrid, while the remaining quarter-final ties between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, as well as Benfica and Bayern Munich, will be determined tonight.
City have often been criticised for stumbling in Europe, but Pellegrini, who reached the last four of the Champions League with former club Villarreal, believes his side showcased a “big club” mentality against perennial quarter-final flounderers PSG.
“I am very satisfied and very proud, not only because we won the game and qualified for the semi-finals, but also because we played very well and in the style of play that we want,” said Pellegrini.
“We didn’t want to qualify by just drawing 0-0. From the beginning we demonstrated that we wanted to win and I think we were a better team tonight than Paris Saint-Germain.
“I trust so much in this team. Of course it [Aguero’s penalty miss] wasn’t the best moment but once again this team demonstrated the character and personality to play and to think as a big team.”
City had won all six of their previous ties in European competition after a drawn first leg, but were given a stark reminder of big-spending PSG’s threat when goalkeeper Joe Hart was forced to tip over a rasping free-kick from Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic on 17 minutes.
The hosts wasted a glorious opportunity to take an aggregate lead on the half hour mark as prolific marksman Aguero, having been felled by PSG stopper Kevin Trapp, stroked the resulting spot-kick wide of the post.
Hart repelled a second ferociously struck Ibrahimovic set-piece during the opening stages of the second period, while he also clawed away a 65th-minute downward header from PSG skipper Thiago Silva.
Despite a distinct lack of cutting edge on the night, City took a giant step towards the last four as De Bruyne completed a patient move by curling low beyond a helpless Trapp from the edge of the penalty area with less than 15 minutes remaining.
French champions PSG required two goals in the dying embers to progress and Hart denied Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani, while a close-range Ibrahimovic finish was ruled out for offside, as a buoyant City avoided an unnecessarily nervy ending.