Kevin De Bruyne’s injury-time strike illuminated Manchester City’s path to the Champions League last 16 as they beat Sevilla 2-1 in dramatic fashion at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
An open, occasionally breathless game was heading for a draw after Adil Rami’s own goal had cancelled out Yevhen Konoplyanka’s 30th-minute opener for Sevilla, only for De Bruyne to gather a pass from Yaya Toure and slam home with his left foot seconds into stoppage time.
City had been second-best at times against the Europa League champions, but De Bruyne’s goal enabled them to move three points clear of their Spanish rivals in Group D and close to within a point of leaders Juventus.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side now face their two most difficult games of the group phase, away to Sevilla and then Juventus, who won 2-1 at the Etihad last month, but they will travel with hope fully intact after securing only a fourth win in 13 Champions League home games.
It was a special night for City winger Jesus Navas, who made 393 appearances for Sevilla over a 10-year spell, and he almost opened the scoring with a 25-yard shot that faded away from the left-hand post.
The Spaniard’s early sighter was in keeping with a positive start by the hosts, who also saw Wilfried Bony — deputising for the injured Sergio Aguero — prod a shot straight at Sergio Rico before De Bruyne dragged a shot wide.
But City’s fans have learnt to be wary of Champions League home games and their anxieties resurfaced in the 17th minute when Konoplyanka wobbled the post with a cunning free-kick from wide on the right and Joe Hart had to turn Grzegorz Krychowiak’s follow-up effort behind.
Suddenly City looked edgy, Timothee Kolodziejczak flicking a corner across the face of goal and Krychowiak heading wide from another dead-ball situation, and on the half hour Sevilla’s pressure told.
Bacary Sagna, filling in again at left-back with Aleksandar Kolarov only fit enough for the bench, had been caught upfield once already and on the second occasion it proved fatal, with Vitolo stealing in behind him and teeing up Konoplyanka to sweep home.
Pellegrini’s unorthodox tactics do the trick
Fortunately for the Frenchman, it took City just six minutes to equalise.
Toure had hit out at a perceived lack of recognition in the English media prior to the game, but here he took matters into his own hands in a manner that recalled his displays in City’s 2011-12 and 2013-14 title-winning campaigns.
Faced up by Kolodziejczak on the right-hand side of the area, the Ivorian rolled his man brilliantly before crossing from the byline.
Raheem Sterling’s firmly hit shot was kept out by Rico, but Bony instinctively stuck a foot out as the rebound flew towards him and the ball flicked off Rami’s right knee and into the goal.
Kevin Gameiro had two good opportunities to put Sevilla ahead either side of half-time, heading over from close range on both occasions.
There were half-chances for City, De Bruyne drilling wide and seeing a shot blocked after neatly moving the ball onto his left foot, but Sevilla continued to find gaps, Vicente Iborra volleying wide and substitute Michael Krohn-Dehli hitting the side-netting.
Pellegrini’s solution was to send on Fernando in front of Bony, which freed Toure to go forward and saw De Bruyne move up front.
Belatedly, City sparked, Bruyne’s cross narrowly evading Sterling and Rico thwarting Toure before the Belgian dealt the decisive blow at the death.