Manuel Pellegrini has hailed his Manchester City side, who came from behind to record a crucial 2-1 win over Sevilla on Wednesday evening.
Having lost won and won once of their two previous UEFA Champions League matches, the Premier League leaders are pitted against the Spaniards in a double-header which is likely to be vital in terms of qualification from Group D. And it was the visitors who took the initiative at the Etihad Stadium, when Yevhen Konoplyanka fired them ahead after half-an-hour.
Without Sergio Aguero and David Silva, and with Vincent Kompany on the bench after recovering from injury, City were behind for just six minutes when an Adil Rami own-goal put them on level terms. It was then left for £54million Kevin De Bruyne, who had been pushed into a central striker role, to score a memorable winner a minute into stoppage time.
“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,” said Pellegrini. “It’s very important for him to score, Seville were a very good team but we improved a little in the last 10 minutes and we had the character to try to win the game.
“It’s important because we have won our last two Champions League games in the last minute and in both games we were 1-0 down. There has been a lot of criticism about this team in Europe but I think these games reflect we have the character to try to win. We will try to improve our play but the character, concentration and intensity to win in Europe is also very important.”
City are now on six points and second in the group, a point behind Juventus. Pellegrini’s side can all but clinch their place in the last 16 if they beat the UEFA Europa League holders in the return in Spain on 3 November, but attention now turns to the Manchester derby on Sunday. United were also in Champions League action on Wednesday, when they drew at CSKA Moscow.
The home side took the lead Seydou Doumbia scored on 15 minutes after David De Gea had initially saved a Roman Eremenko penalty. That spot kick was given when Anthony Martial handled in the area, but the Frenchman made amends when he stooped to head home an Antonio Valencia cross to give Louis van Gaal’s side a point to keep their qualification bid on track.
“I was very happy with my team’s performance,” Van Gaal said. “I’m happy with a draw, we now have two home matches and you can say we are very strong at home and I hope we can win these games so we are nearly qualified or qualified, but we also have a game away to
Wolfsburg. We are on schedule after the PSV Eindhoven defeat.”