City produced a stunning fightback to humble European champions Bayern Munich in their own backyard with a magnificent 3-2 win.
Trailing 2-0 with barely 10 minutes played, the Blues somehow plugged the gaps at the back and played their way back into a game that had looked as good as over almost as soon as it had begun.
Goals from David Silva, Aleks Kolarov and the excellent James Milner turned the game on its head and the visitors came within a whisker of finding the goal that would have seen them oust Bayern from the top spot –and it would have been deserved, too.
City began the evening needing a highly unlikely winning margin to win the group, but given Bayern Munich’s pedigree – plus the manner of their 3-1 victory at the Etihad last October – Manuel Pellegrini, still looking for a first win in six games over Guardiola, opted to ring the changes for this game.
With a top-of-the-table clash with Arsenal to come on Sunday, the Chilean made seven changes from the team that drew 1-1 with Southampton at the weekend, though by including the likes of Joe Hart, Micah Richards and David Silva, this could hardly be considered a weakened team.
True, skipper Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo were all benched, Samir Nasri rested and Yaya Toure suspended, but there was enough quality to give even the European champions a decent contest.
In contrast, Guardiola fielded the strongest starting XI at his disposal, perhaps conscious that the opposition were capable of creating 'three or four chances in a minute' – as he stated before the game
...Bayern 2 City 3...
Bayern, fresh from beating Werder Bremen 7-0 away in the Bundesliga in their last game and having won 13 and drawn two of their 15 league matches as well as winning all their Group D games, represented a huge challenge for City - but with qualification to the knock-out stage already assured for both teams, it was perhaps playing for pride on this occasion that mattered most.
No side before or since had humbled the Blues this season the way Bayern did the first meeting between these clubs so there could be no repeat of that performance in this meeting - yet within 12 minutes, it looked as though this would prove to be another chastening lesson from the Germans.
The Blues’ defending in the early stages was woeful and it was no surprise when Thomas Muller ghosted behind Kolarov and on to Dante’s sumptuous 40-yard pass, before poking it past Hart with only five minutes on the clock.
Just seven minutes passed before the next Bayern goal with yet more poor marking largely responsible for Mario Gotze being able to prod home from five yards after a series of opportunities to clear the ball had been squandered. It looked like being a long evening for the players and 3,000 travelling fans and a distict case of deja vu.
Richards appeared to pull a muscle a few minutes after the second goal and the crestfallen look on his face as he was replaced by Pablo Zabaleta suggested he will be out of contention for the weekend visit of the Gunners at the very least.
But with the hosts seeming set for a cricket score, the Blues began, at last, to play some football. Milner had already tested the gloves of Manuel Neuer with a stinging volley and he played a crucial role in the goal that the improvement just about merited.
Jesus Navas whipped in an inviting cross that Milner did well to reach and head back across goal and Silva managed to bundle the ball over the line to give renewed hope for Pellegrini’s side who went in at the break trailing by just one goal.
City, however, were not satisfied with merely making a fist of things and upped the ante after the break, taking the game to Bayern who began to visibly rock and when Milner took on Dante in the box just before the hour-mark, the Brazilian floored the England man and the referee pointed to the spot.
Skipper Kolarov thumped the penalty home and within three minutes, the team that had looked set for a thrashing earlier in the game were ahead. Navas, a threat all evening down the right, burst forward again and hit a low ball across the box that was fluffed by two Bayern defenders before Milner swept the ball home with a superb low drive.
As the travelling Blues chanted ‘Football’s Coming Home’, the City defence repelled the disjointed attacks that the Germans could string together with Zabaleta, in particular, outstanding in his duel with Ballon D’Or nominee Franck Ribery.
There was to be one more heart-stopping moment for Guardiola’s side as sub Alvaro Negredo disposed an unusually shaky Dante but his low shot was saved by the feet of Neuer as City almost recorded the most amazing comeback in their recent history.
Had The Beast scored, the Blues would have topped the group against all the odds. As it was, they had to settle for a stunning win that more than restored the pride lost in the first meeting between these two teams.
Nobody will fancy meeting Pellegrini’s men in the knockout stages after this performance – perhaps the best by a City team in Europe.