City went out of the Champions League with their heads held high after goals from David Silva and Yaya Toure secured a 2-0 victory over group leaders Bayern Munich.
Sadly, it wasn’t enough as Napoli triumphed 2-0 away to Villarreal to leave Roberto Mancini’s side in third spot in Group A – with ten points – almost unheard of.
For more than an hour, everything was going the Blues’ way both home and abroad, but two strikes midway through the second half at El Madrigal left City to join neighbours Manchester United in the Europa League instead.
At least the Blues can take solace at having beaten one of Europe’s best teams in style and are now just one game shy of completing a calendar year unbeaten at the Etihad Stadium – an incredible achievement that will be completed by avoiding defeat to Arsenal on December 18.
This was always going to be something akin to Mission Impossible due to the Blues' group clashes with Napoli which yielded just one point from a possible six
...City 2 Bayern 0
A draw in Italy would have given this tie a completely different dynamic with a victory then sure to propel City into the latter stages of the competition - but failure in Naples meant the Blues needed a massive favour from Villarreal who were yet to pick up a point in the Champions League.
For all the pre-match bluster from Bayern’s executive chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge about how the Germans intended on ensuring City didn’t progress, the visitors, with several players sidelined with illness, named a starting XI that saw Franck Ribery, Mario Gomez and Philipp Lahm all start on the bench.
That’s not to say Bayern were fielding their second string – far from it – but like the Blues, they have strength in depth - and then some.
The early exchanges saw City look the more likely to make a breakthrough and on 14 minutes, Joleon Lescott thought he had - and with good reason, too.
Stefan Savic, starting in place of the injured Micah Richards, was felled by Ivica Olic with a challenge that could easily have seen the Croatian given his marching orders, but when Lescott nodded home Silva’s free-kick the referee rather generously disallowed the effort for a challenge on the keeper.
The visitors rarely threatened as City gradually took control and on 36 minutes, it was Silva who finally broke the deadlock when he ran onto Edin Dzeko’s sumptuous flick to lash home a left-foot screamer from 20 yards – suddenly, with the news Villarreal were holding Napoli, the impossible mission had suddenly become a distinct possibility.
Silva and Sergio Aguero both went close to doubling the lead before the break but Bayern just about clung on.
The Blues came out of the blocks all guns blazing after the re-start and within six minutes had deservedly doubled the lead when Aguero found Dzeko who in turn laid the ball into the box for Toure to poke past Jorg Butt.
The atmosphere became a little deflated as news filtered through of events in Spain, but the cheers at the end matched the achievement on the night.
As the City fans sang at the end, “We’ll be here on Thursday nights!”, and they will – but we’ll be back in the Champions League again soon – and this team will have learned from their mistakes.
The Blues will be back!