MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini played down the significance of his late tactical switch after Kevin De Bruyne’s stoppage-time winner gave his team a vital 2-1 win over Sevilla in their Champions League Group D match on Wednesday.
With 15 minutes remaining and City looking short of ideas on how to break down the well-organised and confident Spanish side without injured Sergio Aguero in attack and creative playmaker David Silva, Pellegrini acted.
He took off Wilfried Bony, whose deflected shot led to City’s equaliser, replacing him with Fernando.
That allowed De Bruyne to come into the middle and for Yaya Toure to push up. The combination worked to perfection for the winner, Toure thundering downfield before passing wide to De Bruyne out right.
The Belgian cut inside and then fired home a well struck left-foot angled shot for the winner.
Pellegrini, who described the match as a must-win game before it started, praised his players rather than take any credit himself.
“The team showed good character for the whole game, the two teams played very well and did not make many mistakes, it was a very equal game,” he told BT Sport.
However, he did accept he had to make the change, because City, who created chances in the first hour, appeared to have run out of ideas with the score still at 1-1 and time running out.
“I needed to make a change because we were not arriving in the box or creating chances. I needed a way to free Yaya nearer the box and Kevin also.”
“But I don’t think it was a tactical switch, ” he added.
Whatever it was, it worked.
Sevilla, Europa League winners for the last two seasons, have not looked out of place in the elite competition and went ahead when Yevhen Konoplyanka scored in the 30th minute.
City pulled level when a Bony shot went in off Adil Rami six minutes later and came back to win at the death.
They now have six points, one behind Juventus (7) with Sevilla (3) and Borussia Moenchengladbach (1) trailing, though two of City’s remaining three games are away at Sevilla and Juventus.
Despite that, De Bruyne’s goal has given them a real chance of a place in the last 16 and a big boost before they face Manchester United in the derby in the Premier League on Sunday.
(Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Clare Lovell)