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Here are five things we learned from City’s second UEFA Champions League victory of the season…
Judging from the widespread reaction on social media, you’d have thought that Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to bring Fernando on for Wilfried Bony was a change made with the intention of settling for a point.
However, Pellegrini has form for making the unexpected substitution and, anyway, it’s reductive to view a defensive-minded player replacing an attacking one as a unilateral move to preserve an equilibrium.
Fernando’s introduction enabled Yaya Toure and Kevin De Bruyne to play further up the field in positions where they could hurt the Sevilla defence and allowed the Brazilian midfield axis to sit and protect against the counter.
It was a tactical ploy which was vindicated in the first minute of injury-time when Toure launched a rapier counter-attack and De Bruyne danced inside to break Sevilla hearts.
As the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat and there were a few hasty tweets which greeted the Fernando for Bony switch that were sheepishly deleted in the aftermath of last night’s dramatic finale.
Almost four years ago to the day, Villarreal came to the Etihad Stadium in what was a must-win UEFA Champions League group stage match for City.
Like last night, City equalised through an own goal against Spanish opposition before going on to win the game with a last minute winner.
That match took place a few days before the first Manchester derby of the season at Old Trafford which City went into two points clear of their rivals at the top of the Premier League… sounds familiar!
Does anyone remember what happened next?
It’s difficult to fathom just how Yaya Toure’s critics still doubt the Ivorian after five stellar years in sky blue.
Perhaps the 32-year old is judged by unfairly high standards but he continues to produce when he’s needed most, putting in what was arguably a Man of the Match-winning performance against Sevilla.
There are few greater sights in football than Toure when he moves through the gears – he’s a rare case of a player who actually looks faster when dribbling than he does without the ball.
He played a decisive role in both goals and his influence only grew when he was unleashed further up the field in the wake of the afore-mentioned late substitution.
Seven starts, five goals, four assists – it’s fair to say that City’s record signing has taken no time at all to acclimatize to his new surrounds.
He was the coolest man on the field when he picked up the ball on the right edge of the penalty area last night and curled the ball around Sergio Rico in the Sevilla goal in added time last night.
Manuel Pellegrini said in the summer that it’s tricky to improve upon the City starting line-up when shopping for new acquisitions to his squad but there’s no doubt De Bruyne has done just that and supporters have a new hero.
Juventus’s home draw against Borussia Monchengladbach was a surprising boost for City’s hopes of qualification.
While qualification via any means is the target, topping the group would help to avoid another daunting clash against one of Europe’s elite clubs and Pellegrini’s men now have their destiny in their own hands following Match Day Three.
At the halfway stage in Group D, three wins will see City top the group but, with trips to Sevilla and Juventus to come, it’s still all in the balance in what is proving to be one of the competition’s most intriguing and competitive groups.