City's İlkay Gündoğan said beating Barcelona gave him "one of the best feelings I've had", Kevin De Bruyne noting that his side had watched their opponents and learned.
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When İlkay Gündoğan looks back at the end of his first season in English football, the Manchester City midfielder will have 1 November circled in his mind as one of the days to remember.
After all, it is not every day you score the two goals that earn your new club an historic first victory against Barcelona and the feeling of triumph at the finish was something to savour. "The final whistle with our team-mates and staff and supporters was one of the best feelings I've had in the last few months," said the summer signing from Borussia Dortmund.
He would not be alone in that sentiment – this was a famous night for a club seeking a level of achievement in Europe to match their ambition, made all the more exciting for the way City fought back conceding an early Lionel Messi goal. But just how did they turn the game on its head to finally beat Barcelona at the sixth time of asking?
Goals change games
It is one of football's oldest clichés but goals do really change games – just ask Gündoğan, who acknowledged the impact of his 39th-minute equaliser. "Barcelona were better for 35 minutes, they created a few chances and scored and it was deserved. But after the equaliser I had the feeling something changed in our team. The mentality came back and with the crowd it was amazing. We continued in the second half and finished it, which was impressive."
Indeed City might have won by an even bigger scoreline, such was the way in which, with a rare intensity, they preyed on the vulnerability of Barcelona's much-changed back line. "We were able to control 90% of Barcelona after that time, especially in the second half."
Press for success
Another player to shine was Kevin De Bruyne, scorer of a brilliant free-kick which made it 2-1. Reflecting on the way City grew into the game, building an impressive momentum and raising the decibel levels of the crowd, he said: "I think the way we pressed was better after half an hour. It was [a case of] looking how to do it because Barcelona in possession are the best team in the world but in the end we found how to do it and that was key."
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, rueful of his side's loss of control, could only concur as he noted Guardiola's impact on City: "The aspects of play are very clear and characteristic of his philosophy. They press a lot. They don't give you a minute's rest."
We live in a world of snap judgements and short memories yet it would not be hyperbole to say this is City's best victory in the UEFA Champions League – better even than the quarter-final success against Paris Saint-Germain last season. This was, after all, a Barcelona side who had beaten them in every previous encounter. "You need nights like today to make the club believe, to make the people, the players believe they are able to compete with the best clubs," said Guardiola. He might have remained seated when De Bruyne's free-kick flew in but all around him, belief levels were soaring. They probably still are this morning.