Manchester City booked their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a stunning 3-1 Group D triumph at Sevilla.
The patchy nature of City’s 2-1 victory over the same opponents in Manchester two weeks ago prompted renewed talk of Manuel Pellegrini and his team’s shortfalls at elite club level.
But despite record signing Kevin De Bruyne – the matchwinner during the previous meeting between the sides – watching on from the bench, City turned in a thrilling first-half display brimming with creativity and intensity.
The travelling supporters continued their frosty relationship with UEFA by again booing the Champions League anthem before kick-off, but they were roaring with delight soon afterwards as Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho put City 2-0 up inside 11 minutes.
Sevilla were unbowed and vibrantly battled a way back into the contest as Benoit Tremoulinas headed home before Wilfried Bony added City’s third nine minutes prior to half-time.
Juventus’ second consecutive draw against Borussia Monchengladbach means Pellegrini’s men will head to Turin on matchweek five as group leaders aiming to take another significant scalp heading into the knockout rounds.
The Chilean’s decision to include Fernando in a holding role granted attacking license to Fernandinho and the midfielder was at the heart of much of City’s fine work during a devastating opening spell.
Having had a penalty appeal rejected, the Brazil international strode forward a threaded a sublime pass for Sterling to slot home left-footed in the eighth minute.
Roles were reversed three minutes later – Sterling pouncing on a slip from Sevilla full-back Coke to feed Bony, whose shot was magnificently saved by Sergio Rico before Fernandinho nodded in the rebound.
Rico’s attempted heroics were almost in vain once again when he got down to tip a strike from former Sevilla winger Jesus Navas onto the base of his right post.
Fernando Llorente fired wastefully over on the end of Vicente Iborra’s flick on, but Sevilla reduced the deficit after 25 minutes with a wonderful team goal.
Vitolo deftly picked out Coke, who atoned for his earlier error by skipping past Nicolas Otamendi and chipping a cross over Joe Hart for his fellow full-back Tremoulinas to charge in for a simple headed finish.
After Sevilla defender Adil Rami blasted into the side netted, City restored their two-goal cushion nine minutes before the break as Navas collected a Hart clearance to twist past Tremoulinas and cut the ball back for Bony to pick out the bottom corner.
Unai Emery’s team began the second half on the front foot, seeking to respond once more, but they were indebted to sharp reactions from Rico to deny Fernandinho a second – Sterling crafting the opportunity with another mazy run in the 53rd minute.
Enjoying arguably his finest performance since joining City from Liverpool in a protracted close-season transfer, Sterling then had a strike blocked on the end of a Fernandinho pass that was delightfully dummied by Bony.
A one-two between Ivory Coast team-mates Bony and Yaya Toure saw the latter curl wide as the match entered the final 20 minutes, with Sevilla looking increasingly dishevelled.
The Europa League holders are now most likely to contest a return to that competition in a battle for third place with Monchengladbach as they sit five points behind Juventus in second and unable to overturn City due to an inferior head-to-head record.
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