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Birthday boy Sterling stars to give City top spot

Manchester City 4-2 Mönchengladbach
Just 21, Raheem Sterling scored on 80 and 81 minutes to turn the game and leave City top of Group D with Mönchengladbach bottom.

Highlights: Man. City 4-2 Mönchengladbach
Highlights: Man. City 4-2 Mönchengladbach
  • Manchester City come from behind for win that secures Group D supremacy
  • Mönchengladbach lead 2-1 at half-time despite conceding first
  • Birthday boy Raheem Sterling scores on 80 and 81 minutes before Wilfried Bony clincher
  • Mönchengladbach finish fourth behind Sevilla
  • The round of 16 draw takes place at 12.00CET on Monday

Manchester City came from behind to beat Borussia Mönchengladbach and snatch first place in UEFA Champions League Group D from Juventus.

In a dramatic finish in Manchester, Raheem Sterling – on his 21st birthday – scored twice and substitute Wilfried Bony once in a six-minute spell for a City side who had trailed until the 80th minute. Consequently they can look forward to going into the round of 16 as group winners for the first time.

For Gladbach, who had led 2-1 through goals from Julian Korb and Raffael, it was a bitter blow as they slipped from third place in the group to fourth, below Sevilla who defeated Juventus 1-0 – the result that allowed City to overtake the Italian champions.

Sterling on his birthday delight
Sterling on his birthday delight

City, with Sergio Agüero injured and Bony left on the bench, began without a conventional central striker. Instead they had David Silva in the false nine role, supported out wide by Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne. Silva it was who broke the deadlock after Sterling released him with a cute back-heel and the Spaniard, cutting in from the left of the box, flashed a shot high past Yann Sommer at his near post.

Gladbach had already raised the hopes of their 3,000 noisy travelling supporters when Korb had a sight of goal but fired over. Those fans were celebrating within three minutes of City scoring, though, as Fabian Johnson burst down the left and played a ball across the area; Lars Stindl let it run on to Korb, who arrowed a first-time effort into the bottom corner of Joe Hart's goal.

With half-time approaching, Gladbach owed thanks to full-back Nico Elvedi for a terrific interception that stopped Sterling reaching a dangerous Fabian Delph delivery across goal. Instead Gladbach struck at the other end. Oscar Wendt played the ball in and Johnson took a shot which Raffael diverted past Hart from close range.

Raheem Sterling celebrates
Raheem Sterling celebrates©AFP/Getty Images

Sterling led the recovery in the second half. He failed to beat Sommer from point-blank range when Elvedi chested the ball into his path, then drew a flying save from Sommer with a smart volleyed attempt after 68 minutes. Eventually, though, the goals came.

First he stabbed in from a Gaël Clichy cross and then minutes later curled in superbly from the edge of the box after  being played in Bony. Bony himself completed the turnaround as the home supporters erupted in celebration.

Shades of the noisy neighbours?
It used to be Manchester United who made a habit of late winners in this competition. Now it is their neighbours. City claimed three of their four victories in the last ten minutes so whoever they face in the next round should tread carefully.

Joe Hart screams at his defence
Joe Hart screams at his defence©AFP/Getty Images

Defensive concerns
City will want to tighten up defensively in the knockout stage, having finished the group stage without a single clean sheet. Indeed, with eight goals conceded, they have the leakiest defence of the eight pool winners and will want to have Vincent Kompany available when the competition resumes after Christmas.

Gladbach pay for slow start
Gladbach's 12-match unbeaten run came to a halt in Manchester – bringing an unhappy end to their first UEFA Champions League campaign. They had looked dangerous counterattacking in the first period but sat back and were unable to hold out in the second. Ultimately, what really cost them third place was their poor start – losing their opening two games left them with a mountain to climb in such a competitive section.

Reaction
Manuel Pellegrini, City coach
The hard work I think we did before, winning qualification two games ago [on matchday four]. It is not so easy to qualify from the group. After that it was important to finish in top spot in the group and we did it.

It is a relief in the sense that we saw in the second half the team we normally try to be – we had good possession, we created options and we didn't give too many options to the other team. It is a good achievement for the whole group to be in all the competitions.

Mönchengladbach applaud their fans
Mönchengladbach applaud their fans©AFP/Getty Images

André Schubert, Mönchengladbach coach
I think we played very well in the first half and did well going forward. In the first half we lost the ball a couple of times and that produced chances for the opposition – the second half was the same. At the start of the second half, once or twice we lost possession and that allowed the pressure to build up and we couldn't get relief from that. As a result we were pressed back by the opposition.

The game wasn't so open and I think my team, having been very intense these last few weeks, lost a bit of strength. Andreas Christensen had a knock before the game and Fabian Johnson had to come off injured. We just weren't able to make it up today.

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©AFP/Getty Images
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