Pep Guardiola hailed a historic victory after Manchester City came from behind to stun Barcelona on a memorable Champions League night at the Etihad Stadium.
Ilkay Gundogan struck twice either side of a sublime Kevin De Bruyne free-kick to earn City a 3-1 win over the Spanish champions just two weeks after being thrashed 4-0 by the same opponents.
As in the reverse fixture at the Nou Camp, Lionel Messi put Barca into an early lead, but this time the breaks in a compelling end-to-end encounter went City’s way.
The victory not only put City back on track to qualify for the last 16 from Group C, but had wider implications for both the club and manager Guardiola.
It was City’s first success against the five-times European champions in six attempts over the past three years and confirmed their arrival at the elite level arguably more emphatically than last season’s run to the semi-finals.
For Guardiola it was an impressive victory against the club he led to two Champions League triumphs and, after a difficult sequence of results, made clear the potential rewards of playing by his methods.
Guardiola said: “This club was for many years out of Europe, while these kind of clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich were playing every year.
“Maybe today is a good step. Now we realise, ‘Wow, we won against the best team, so we are able to do that’.
“For the future generations, for new players coming in the future, they are going to realise, ‘These guys were able to beat the best team, and we have to do it again’.”
City started well and had a strong penalty appeal turned down after 10 minutes when Raheem Sterling appeared to be trodden on by Samuel Umtiti. Referee Viktor Kassai instead booked the England winger for diving.
City were pressing again when Barca turned defence into attack in an instant to take the lead with a brilliant breakaway goal for Messi. At this point the game could have got away from the hosts as Barca spurned a succession of chances to increase their lead, but instead a Sergi Roberto error allowed Sergio Aguero and Sterling to set up Gundogan.
De Bruyne put City ahead with a brilliant set-piece effort and Gundogan added the third after Andres Gomes hit the crossbar for the visitors.
City now have seven points from their four games, two behind Barca and three ahead of Borussia Monchengladbach with two fixtures to play. Victory in Germany in their next outing will put them through.
Midfielder Gundogan said: “With those three guys up front Barcelona made it a very difficult first 30 minutes but we took so much self confidence from the equaliser and our second half was perfect. The end result was well deserved.”