Manuel Pellegrini felt Manchester City answered critics of their defensive capabilities in the goalless draw against Dynamo Kiev that saw them through to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.
City carried a 3-1 lead into their home leg of the last-16 tie but were hit by a double injury blow to captain Vincent Kompany and his fellow centre-back Nicolas Otamendi during the opening stages of the match.
Replacements Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis were rarely troubled until a belated Kiev rally and City kept only their second Champions League clean sheet in 18 attempts on home turf.
“For me it was more a tactical game where we didn’t want to force the game. Dynamo, they didn’t take any risks also,” said Pellegrini, who confirmed a recurrence of Kompany’s persistent calf problem will keep him out of Sunday’s derby against Manchester United.
“It is difficult a bit to analyse but so many times this team has received criticism that we don’t know how to defend.
“We defended without any problems. When you have eight or nine players near your box it is very easy to defend.”
Otamendi could return to the defensive line at the weekend if a Wednesday scan on his suspected dead leg shows nothing more severe.
City’s quarter-final opponents are likely to ask more pressing questions of their rearguard than Dynamo managed in a dour encounter and Pellegrini believes one potential foe stands out as the main danger in Friday’s draw.
“I think when you are in this stage, all the teams are very difficult,” he said.
“I keep having in my mind that the team that is better than all the other teams is Barcelona.
“I think all the other teams are similar competition.”
Despite the milestone ultimately arriving in underwhelming circumstances, Pellegrini was happy to lead the club he will leave at the end of this season to their best Champions League showing to date.
“It is always important to have a new achievement for your club,” he added.
“We had a very difficult group this season, with Seville, Juventus and Borussia Monchengladbach representing the three other best leagues in Europe.
“We won the group so I think that this season, I don’t know if we are better prepared, but we had more experience to arrive at this stage. I hope that we can continue further.”
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