SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) - Manchester City threw off their shackles, went for goals and reached the Champions League last 16 with two games to spare by demolishing Sevilla 3-1 with a brilliant first-half attacking display in Group D on Tuesday.
First-half goals from Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho and Wilfried Bony sent City into the dressing rooms 3-1 up at halftime with the contest already effectively over.
City top the section with nine points, a point ahead of Juventus who drew 1-1 at Borussia Moenchengladbach. Sevilla have three points above the Germans who now have two.
In what captain Vincent Kompany described as probably their finest ever performance in the competition, City were far too strong for a Sevilla side that had won their last 10 home matches in European competition.
The Spaniards were as good as buried by the 11th minute in front of their own fans at the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
Man-of-the match Sterling, with his best performance since his 49-million-pound move from Liverpool, ignited City with an eighth minute goal.
The England winger then had a key role in setting up Fernandinho who headed the second three minutes later.
Benoit Tremoulinas headed Sevilla’s back into the contest after 25 minutes before Bony wrapped up the victory with City’s third in the 36th.
Like Sterling, it was Bony’s first Champions League goal.
”For us to be qualified with two games to spare is an incredible achievement,“ Belgium international Kompany told BT Sport. ”It’s probably the best performance we have had in the Champions League so far.
“The biggest thing to take from this game is that we were not naive. We played in a very British way today, we had a big man up front and a lot of runs from midfield and we hurt them like this. We brought the best of English football today to beat a very strong team.”
City manager Manuel Pellegrini opted to play with Sterling and former Sevilla player Jesus Navas wide, with Bony and Fernandinho marauding in attack, and the plan worked perfectly.
“I changed the system because I was not happy with the way we were playing, but I am happy with the way we played today and with the way the three midfielders played and with two forwards,” Pellegrini told BT Sport.
City broke the deadlock when Sterling, who was outstanding match, found the net with a sweet angled left-foot shot to become, at 20 years and 330 days, City’s youngest Champions League scorer and, almost from that moment on, City dominated.
City keeper Joe Hart was forced to make an important save when the score was 2-1 by blocking a Timothee Kolodziejczak header with Vicente Iborra smacking the ball into the side netting on the follow-up.
City played a different, containing game in the second half, but, after their early breakthrough, there was only going to be one winner.
Sevilla coach Unai Emery said: ”The team gave their best, we had chances. I have nothing to say against the players. The match went against them and they (City) took advantage.
“We are looking to improve against rivals of the calibre of City and Juventus. We continue to have chances to qualify for second place.”
Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Ken Ferris