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Manchester City aren't afraid of the European big guns: James Milner

By Tim Rich

As their fans began huddling on to planes long before dawn broke over Munich, few of them cared that Manchester City had miscalculated how many goals they needed to top their group. That Manchester City had beaten Bayern Munich in their own stadium was surely enough.

The fact that Manuel Neuer saved from Alvaro Negredo meant that City did not top Group D and that come tomorrow's draw one of the big beasts of European football will probably await. City cannot draw an English club and nor can they face Bayern Munich again.

That leaves the two Madrid clubs, Barcelona and Paris St Germain on the menu. However, given how Manchester City have performed, especially at the Etihad Stadium, no beast, however big, will be sure of its survival.

Before Bayern's first match against Manchester City in October, Pep Guardiola predicted that, should they qualify from the group, City might run wild in the knockout stages.

The way Manuel Pellegrini's side turned what after a dozen minutes looked as if it would be abject humiliation into Bayern's first defeat in nine months suggests Guardiola could be right.

"We will take anyone in the next round," said James Milner, who won a penalty and scored the winner as people stopped looking up City's heaviest European defeat (only 3-1 to a variety of German clubs) and began wondering when Bayern had last lost (in March to Arsenal).

Joe Hart, for whom this might have been a humbling, career-defining evening, showed the character on an icy Bavarian night that might help him in a more humid one in Manaus.

"It has to be up there as our best European moment," said Milner who gave the kind of driven, against-the-odds performance that England will need in the World Cup. "You have to look at the way the game went with us being 2-0 down and starting pretty poorly. We had to show character to turn that around.

"This could not have been any tougher. Bayern are the reigning champions and have been to three European Cup finals in the last four years or something ridiculous like that.

"The real us came out; it was a different team in those first 15 minutes when we were sloppy. Now we will know we can progress."

Belfast Telegraph


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