Raheem Sterling's late tally rescues below-par Man City vs. Feyenoord
With qualification assured unusually early and the most supine member of the group as opponents, City still made heavy weather of an ordinary Feyenoord side. The side that likes to pass and pass and pass again finally found a meaningful one in the 89th minute, when Raheem Sterling was put through by Ilkay Gundogan's wonderful pass to net the winner. Winning ugly can also be of use from time to time, Pep Guardiola will have noted
Europe's best passing team so far this season won the game by sticking to their guns. Finally, there was also a small chance for two of the most promising youngsters to get some game time, as Phil Foden then Brahim Diaz showed they are not going to be out of place on the big stage in the future.
A below par performance that left it late to keep the incredible winning sequence going, City were dogged by too many slovenly performances at the same time..
Manager Rating out of 10
7 -- Guardiola chose to make fewer initial alterations than expected, despite the trip to Huddersfield looming and serious continental excursions awaiting his players in the New Year. Cut a frustrated figure on the touchline but as usual stuck to his guns and it paid off eventually.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ederson, 7 -- Couple of uncomfortable first-half moments, one a mis-control that put him in trouble for a minute, the other a dive at feet that only just took the ball, but saved the best until later on, with a fantastic one-handed save from Steven Berghuis' dangerous drive.
DF Kyle Walker, 7 -- Brought some liveliness to the right flank combinations with Bernardo Silva during the first half. Turned inside out by Sam Larsson's weaving run, which ended in the striker getting a dangerous shot in after 35 minutes. Well advanced during the second half but generally to little effect.
DF Eliaquim Mangala, 7 -- Plenty of early possession across the back four, generally making good use of the ball out, either centrally or down the left to Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. Found his way into the referee's book after pushing Jen-Paul Boetius to the ground.
DF Nicolas Otamendi, 8 -- Barring one loss of possession, safe as houses at the back throughout. Good distribution through the central channels and also threaded some nice balls up the right touchline.
DF Danilo, 6 -- Sent a low right-footer just wide, but occasionally troubled defensively during a steady but unspectacular performance. Slightly more central during the second half, which brought more involvement than his right-footed attempts at being a left-back had done.
MF Yaya Toure, 7 -- Cantered through his reintroduction to the big European stage, gradually pushing further forward as it became apparent the Feyenoord midfield were not going to test his defensive capabilities unduly. Couple of trademark bursts through the centre in the second half to remind all gathered of the good old days.
MF Kevin De Bruyne, 6 -- Did well to get a good ball in from Bernardo Silva's spinning feed early on. Touch as sure as ever, but restricted to one sweeping crossfield ball to Kyle Walker and a dinked ball through the legs of Kevin Diks. Replaced by Gabriel Jesus after hitting a low shot just wide in the 63rd minute.
MF Bernardo Silva, 7 -- Increasingly mobile as the game went on, leaving his wide-right position to drift to the left and through the defensive central midfield areas to reasonable effect without ever finding the killer pass. Should have opened the scoring but shot weakly with his left after Sterling had fed him in. Still knocking hopeful balls through right up to the final whistle.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, 7 -- Good battle with Jens Toornstra. Shot over when well placed but was beginning to look tired towards the end when he suddenly picked out the match-winning through ball for Sterling to walk onto and slot home.
MF Raheem Sterling, 8 -- Increasingly influential cutting in from the left flank to cause considerable problems for the Feyenoord defence. Finally got the reward for a selfless night's running, when he chipped coolly over the advancing Brad Jones to win the tie.
FW Sergio Aguero, 7 -- The more he tried the worse things went for City's captain on the night. Eager runner but lacking the normal composure to finish his chances when they presented themselves. Held onto the ball too long and, when the chances came, was off target.
FW Gabriel Jesus, 6 -- Replaced Kevin De Bruyne after 63 minutes and took a long time to get into the flow of things.
MF Phil Foden NR -- On for Yaya Toure after 74 minutes to give a glimpse of the club's future. Bright cameo full of confident touches.
MF Brahim Diaz, NR -- Arrived late on to sample the big game scene and had a couple of good touches before the end.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.