Football

'We showed we are not a one-man team'

Pellegrini confident they would qualify for last 16 even without star striker Aguero

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini claimed he always had faith his team could defy the odds in Rome and qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League.

City overcame the absence of a number of key players to beat Roma 2-0 in the fevered atmosphere of the Stadio Olimpico yesterday morning (Singapore time) and claim a place in the knockout stages that seemed unlikely just a fortnight ago.

Pellegrini's men took just two points from their opening four games in the competition but then revived hopes with a stunning win over Bayern Munich, and then similarly stunned the Italian side yesterday morning.

Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta struck in the second half, as City climbed above both Roma and CSKA Moscow in Group E.

Pellegrini (above) said: "It is not relief because we always trusted - especially after we beat Bayern Munich - that we would have a lot of chances to qualify here.

"I am very happy because we won against a very difficult team in a difficult stadium. We played very well from the beginning of the game."

City's last two performances have been in marked contrast to how they began the competition.

It seemed they were heading for a third group-stage exit in four seasons after losing to CSKA at home last month and the knives started to come out for Pellegrini.

His team have gone on to defy the critics, but Pellegrini insisted he was not trying to send out any message and immediately turned attention back to domestic matters.

He said: "We recovered and we are playing in exactly the same way in the Champions League as in the Premier League and you can see that in the last two games against Bayern and Roma.

"We are not trying to send any kind of message to anybody. We are just happy because we qualified for the next stage. That was our target.

"But, from tomorrow morning, we must forget about the Champions League because we do not have to play until February.

"We now have four games this month in the Premier League that are so important, more than the Champions League.

"Every competition is important but, in England, the Premier League is more important than the Champions League.

"We must focus our mind now on trying to beat Leicester on Saturday."

City were without injured captain Vincent Kompany and striker Sergio Aguero, while Yaya Toure was suspended. David Silva, on his return from a knee injury, came off the bench only for the final 23 minutes.

Pellegrini said: "Maybe if we had not qualified for the next round, it would be easy for me to say we played without all these important players - Kompany, Yaya, Silva and Aguero.

"But I never complain about that. I have a lot of trust in this squad and maybe this squad deserve more credit.

"People say we are just 'Kun' (Aguero). Kun is a very important player - like Cristiano (Ronaldo) in Madrid or (Lionel) Messi in Barcelona - but I always say this team are not just one player and we demonstrated that." - PA Sport.