Delirious Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists his side are coming of age in the Champions League after they displayed verve and tenacity to beat Barcelona at their own game.
Rocked by Lionel Messi’s opener – his 90th Champions League goal – the hosts made a mockery of Barcelona’s fearsome record of five successive humblings of CIty as Ilkay Gundgoan netted twice, either side of a stunning Kevin de Bruyne free-kick.
City’s victory, coupled with Celtic’s draw with Borussia Monchengladbach, means last season’s beaten semi-finalists will reach the last-16 should they overpower the German outfit in their next European tussle on 23 November.
“When a club like Manchester City goes 25 years without Europe, it’s hard to fight face to face with them,” said Guardiola. “We showed many, many good things.
“Today is a good step. We played against a great team and we competed. Now they will realise, ‘wow, we won against the best team.’
“This is the first time we’ve beaten the best team in the world and that’s why I am so happy. Our perspective in going to the next stage is now a little clearer than before.”
City started daringly, pressing and harrying their rivals, and were denied a penalty when Raheem Sterling appeared to be clipped by Samuel Umtiti, only to be booked for simulation.
City’s enterprise counted for nothing, however, as Barcelona shrugged off the shackles of defensive responsibility to carve open their rivals with a blistering counter-attack on 21 minutes.
Messi started the raid with a cross-field pass to Neymar, who surged into acres of space and advanced on the City backline, and as the Argentine joined the attack, he collected his colleague’s pass and slid the ball beyond Willy Caballero.
City, however, were level by the break. Sergi Roberto’s woeful blind pass was seized upon by Sergio Aguero, who fed the overlapping Raheem Sterling and his crisp cross was forced home by the in-form Gundogan.
Shortly after the break, a heavy touch impeded Sterling when he had a clear sight of goal, although any regret was short-lived as De Bruyne curled a sumptuous free-kick past Marc-Andre ter Stegen six minutes after the restart following a foul on David Silva.
As City turned the screw another Barcelona break culminated in Andre Gomes slamming against the crossbar, although it was the relentless hosts who struck again in 74th minute as Gundogan rifled home after Jesus Navas’s cross had cannoned off Aguero.