Guardiola hails "incredible" Champions League start as Man City reach last 16

Pep Guardiola hailed his Manchester City side for clinching their place in the knockout stage with two games to spare.

Phil Foden’s first-half strike was enough to send City into the last 16 and maintain their 100 per cent record in the competition this season.

It is the eighth year running City have reached the knockout stage, although they have fallen at the quarter-final stage in the past three seasons.

Paying tribute to his players, Guardiola said: “We’ve had an incredible group stage, especially the two games away.

“We’ve already qualified and we’ll try to finish first. I know it looks easy, but it’s not.

Guardiola’s side have qualified with two games to spare

“Unfortunately we only scored one goal, but we attacked with more desire. The performance was top-class.”

Given City had 22 shots on target, they should have won by a bigger margin, but this was a case of job done for the Blues, who can now shift their focus to climbing the Premier League.

“We haven’t had the best results in the league, but it’s good to see we’re doing the right things in the Champions League,” said match-winner Foden.

How far will Manchester City go in the Champions League this year? Have your say here.

Foden struck in the first half, latching onto Raheem Sterling’s back-heel

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“That’s something we have to work on, scoring more goals, but we’re creating the chances and hopefully we can score enough to win games comfortably.”

City dominated from the start and had their Greek opponents pinned back in their half as they sprayed the ball around with their customary assurance.

But it took City until the half-hour mark to conjure their first proper chance, Bernardo Silva threading the ball through to Gabriel Jesus, whose shot was blocked by keeper Jose Sa.

The breakthrough came six minutes later, Jesus and Sterling combining, the latter with a clever back-heel for Foden to steer a first-time left-footed finish beyond the reach of Sa, for an exquisitely constructed and executed goal.

Sterling forced a fine save from Sa with a dipping, goal-bound free-kick in first-half added time, but City were unable to add to Foden’s strike, Guardiola taking full advantage of the five subs rule to utilise his squad.

There was a long-awaited return for star striker Sergio Aguero, who came on for Jesus with 12 minutes left for his first appearance for a month, a huge boost for City as they look to score more goals in the weeks and months ahead.

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