Sergio Aguero revived Manchester City’s Champions League hopes with a sensational hat-trick against Bayern Munich.
The prolific Argentinian struck twice in the last five minutes as City snatched an extraordinary 3-2 win over the 10-man German giants at the Etihad Stadium.
The victory was City’s first of their hitherto dismal Champions League campaign and lifted them level with Roma and CSKA Moscow in a tight three-way battle to join Bayern as Group E qualifiers.
City looked to have squandered the opportunity Aguero gave them in opening the scoring with a 22nd-minute penalty after Medhi Benatia was sent off for hauling him down in the area.
The brilliant Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski replied for Bayern before half-time but Aguero refused to concede defeat and pounced on two late errors to turn the match on its head.
City captain Vincent Kompany hailed the brilliance of Aguero, who has now scored 17 goals this season.
Kompany told ITV: “If you want to succeed at anything, you need a special player in a special form, otherwise you just don’t win anything.
“He’s our special player and when he’s in that form he makes things achievable that otherwise wouldn’t be.”
The manner of the victory evoked memories of City’s dramatic title-clinching Barclays Premier League win over QPR in 2012.
The challenge now for City is to build on the result and ensure it becomes a genuine turning point in their relationship with the Champions League.
That is necessary because while the club have made no secret of their European ambition, there has been a feeling that supporters are yet to take to the competition.
The atmosphere at previous home matches has been flat – not helped by the team’s lacklustre displays – but all that could now change after such an exhilarating win.
Kompany said: “We are better with our backs against the wall. We have shown with performances in the Premier League that we never give up, and we have done that again.
“It has always looked at some point as if we had lost it, and we have always had to win four or five games in a row. That is when we are at our best.
“That situation is here now, and I am comfortable that we can go to Rome and get the result.”
The equation is still not simple for City, who travel to the Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital for their final group game in a fortnight.
They will need to beat or claim a high-scoring draw against Roma, but also ensure they still better CSKA’s result against Bayern.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini said: “I am sure that this kind of victory gives a lot of trust to the squad, it is very important, but we will see what happens in the last game.
“I said last week that if we have a mathematical chance to qualify, we will fight to the end. We will see what happens against Roma.”
CSKA’s last-gasp draw against Roma meant City would not have been eliminated even if they had lost to Bayern.
But without the performance of Aguero, their hopes would have been slim and dependent on another result and mathematics.
Pellegrini has already said this season that Aguero deserves to be rated among the world’s elite, and he reiterated that belief, although wanted to share praise around the team.
He said: “I always said before this night that Sergio is one of the best players of the world, one of the best strikers.
“He played very well but I think also the team played very well, especially in the second half.
“We trusted until the end, we worked, we pressed and finally we could make the chances for Sergio to score.”