Rico Lewis should long remember a first ever Manchester City start as the Bury lad fired in a memorable equalizer to become, at 17 years and 346 days, the second-youngest Englishman to score in the Champions League.
Lewis, who has been signed for the club since he was eight, followed this with a hand-over-mouth celebration that suggested shock at signing. The goal brimmed with intent, struck from close range and was just what City needed on a night when they struggled to fire on all cylinders as they often do.
It came after 52 minutes. Their second came 17 from the end when Julián Álvarez, replacing the injured Erling Haaland, pounced on Kevin De Bruyne’s superb through ball to finish before the Argentine beat Riyad Mahrez for the third a little later.
City had still won Group G, but this result shows they are to be avoided in Monday’s last 16, especially as they stuttered in the closing stages.
In pouring rain, Cole Palmer hit a header that sailed over Yassine Bounou’s bar, the youngster slotted in by Jack Grealish after the visiting keeper fluffed a clearance straight at him.
City had Lewis at right-back for his entire debut. He dropped smoothly into the Guardiola way, slotting in to help flood the midfield against a third-bottom La Liga opposition who had won three times all term.
Guardiola too was immediately into his familiar in-game routine, Mr Intense from his near-permanent technical area vantage point, barking orders over to Sergio Gómez about how the left-back should also rotate infield.
City, subdued at half-time, finally threatened once more when Phil Foden’s curling free-kick clattered off Rúben Dia’s frame and slid wide. A solitary Álvarez flick was the centre-forward’s only action as his team-mates struggled to create for Haaland’s stand-in: when City upped the ante, they showed what they could do. Foden collected from Stefan Ortega inside his half, pirouetted, and those in blue raced forward in a move that ended with Grealish finding Foden again despite his effort being blocked.
Now Jorge Sampaoli’s men broke quickly and suddenly Rafa Mir fired a cross at Ortega from the right which required the German’s right hand to be traded. Mir, a little later, turned away a header from close range in a similarly wasteful manner that Lewis earlier sprayed wide: each should have tested the opposition goalkeeper.
Ilkay Gündogan’s radar was calibrated more precisely when he shot after a one-two with Foden but a deflection pinged the ball out for a corner from which Mahrez should have tested the shaky Bounou rather than volleying high. Those misses were soon regretted dearly as City conceded amateurishly: Isco floated in a corner from the right and Gómez allowed Mir a free header and he steered past Ortega into the latter’s top-left corner.
Sevilla, with nil to lose, ran a high-pressing 3-4-3 which, combined with City’s lack of noise, had them right in the contest. In an attempt to try and inject energy into his team, Guardiola scolded Dias while waving his arms at the centre-back. The fruits of this were a Mahrez dance down the right and a blocked Grealish effort. But there was still a lack of real threat plus the Spaniard pulling apart which is City’s calling card when they are in optimal rhythm.
As the interval approached, Guardiola surely prepared choice words to kick-start his men because, even if this was a dead rubber, the Catalan hates to lose.
What he definitely did was make a move: take off Grealish for Rodri, his midfield No.1, with Foden moving wide and Gündogan shuffling up a central position to occupy the latter’s former berth.
Two tries – via Foden and Gómez – marked a promise at the start of the second half, and after a Palmer error, City were level thanks to Lewis’ strike.
Álvarez, who pounced on a loose ball near the D, slipped him in and from a testing angle on the right he slotted past Bounou.
Pure and understandable delight from Lewis, his team-mates, Guardiola and the home faithful and finally City was a blue buzz that flowed through Sevilla, as when Mahrez’s stunning run threatened their second.
Guardiola sent for more cavalry: Bernardo Silva’s trick replaced Gündogan’s simpler offering, but the sight of a rudimentary Foden bump on Álvarez caused the manager’s disbelief to blow out his cheeks.
His side’s firmer control was more appealing, the ball easily knocked around as a way to dismantle Sevilla was sought. In this, Guardiola added the impressive Kevin De Bruyne plus Joshua Wilson-Esbrand, for the 19-year-old’s second senior appearance.
De Bruyne’s impact was immediate and created for Álvarez, while Wilson-Esbrand’s involvement contained a Guardiola rollicking.
The city moves on: no one will want to meet them.
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