City ends Bayern’s great run
Pellegrini’s squad readies for Arsenal by stunning titleholder in Munich
Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini admitted keeping his stars fresh for Saturday’s Premier League visit from leader Arsenal was a factor in its stunning 3-2 win at Bayern Munich.
On a historic night for the club, City fought back from two goals down to break the titleholder’s record 10-match Champions League winning streak as Bayern coach Pep Guardiola suffered his first defeat in major competitions with the German side.
Bayern also fell to its first home defeat — after 18 wins in Munich — since losing 2-0 at home to Arsenal in last season’s knockout stages of the Champions League in March.
With both teams already through to the knockout stages, City avenged a 3-1 defeat to Bayern at Etihad Stadium in October but still finished second to the Germans in Group D with both teams at 15 points.
City winger James Milner completed the fairy-tale comeback by notching the winner in the 62nd minute.
Pellegrini brought on Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo for David Silva, back from a calf injury, for the final 20 minutes, but the Chilean admitted his thinking had been as much about Arsenal as chasing a fourth goal.
“It was important for us to get the fourth goal, but it would also have been a risk of continuing playing with Silva,” said the City coach.
“It was important for us to be at the top of the group, but we also have a big game on Saturday and it was not the most important thing.”
Remarkably, City pulled off the victory over the defending champion after starting with first-string forwards Sergio Aguero and Negredo, plus captain Vincent Kompany on the bench.
“It’s an important victory for the club, not just for me,” said Pellegrini, who later said on television he was not aware a 4-2 win would have put City through as group winner.
“I have been trying to find a style of play here, some of our results had not been that good in the Premier League and this is very good for the club.
“The first message for the squad is that they can win without the likes of Kompany, Aguero and Negredo.
“I told the players this was their chance to prove to me what they can do — that was the most important thing for me.”
It started ominously for City as Bayern raced to a 2-0 lead after 11 minutes.
Goals by Thomas Mueller and Mario Goetze left Bayern cruising before Silva pulled one back for City as it cut the lead to 2-1 at the break.
Stand-in captain Aleksandar Kolarov then converted a penalty to pull even at 59 minutes before Milner gave City a deserved lead three minutes later with a superb curling shot to complete the miraculous recovery.
Despite his first major defeat — not including July’s preseason German Super Cup defeat at Borussia Dortmund — Guardiola was in a philosophical mood.
“Perhaps we needed a defeat to remind us of a few things,” said the Spaniard.
“We have made a good start in the league, in the cup, in the Champions League, winning in Manchester, perhaps we thought things were too easy.
“Congratulations to City. I also congratulated my players in the dressing room for finishing at the top of their group.
“The most important thing now is that we learn the lessons from this defeat.
“It’s not a bad thing for us to lose; I read all the time how ‘ Bayern will win their next game’ or ‘Bayern has it easy’.
“No, no, no, that’s not football.”
This was only the second time Bayern has thrown away a two-goal lead in the Champions League, having gone down 3-2 to AS Roma in 2010.