Kevin De Bruyne, a standout figure in a slew of fine performances for Manchester City on Tuesday, has praised his teammates’ showing against Barcelona – one which stubbornly adhered to the philosophy of manager Pep Guardiola.
It was a match of contrasting fortunes to the reverse fixture two weeks ago, when individual slip-ups and a Claudio Bravo dismissal opened up space for Barca to capitalise upon and take the tie 4-0. On this occasion, De Bruyne, who scored a devious free-kick, played a key part in a warranted 3-1 win.
“It was a big game for us,” the Belgian midfielder told reporters. “We know we were under pressure.
“The beginning was difficult – we made a few mistakes. The second half was very good.
He added: “We deserved it. Barca didn’t create many chances and in the end, we deserved the victory. Everybody knows the style we play. Everything fell in the right place.”
De Bruyne, David Silva, and Ilkay Gundogan, the scorer of a brace on the night, expertly closed down the Blaugrana’s depleted defence throughout, and then charged into open areas when in possession to stretch them out of shape. The work of Sergio Aguero, cropping up in more areas than usual, can also not be downplayed.
“Aguero played awesome! Sergio is so important,” noted Guardiola after the match. “Without him we cannot achieve our targets. I am so happy for him because he was so happy.”
However, once again De Bruyne took a starring role for City. His set-piece was less about direction and power, and more about catching Marc-Andre ter Stegen rocking his balance too far to one side.
“It wasn’t planned (shooting to the less open area of the goal),” De Bruyne explained. “I just saw Ter Stegen was too central, and went that way. I was looking – it doesn’t matter to be fair.
“He was too much in the middle and he took one step so it was too difficult to get back I reckon.”
The result ended a run of five straight matches of City losing to Barcelona, and took the northwest outfit onto seven points in Group C, two points adrift of Tuesday’s visitor and three ahead of Borussia Monchengladbach.