Manchester City’s all-conquering season reached new peaks as Sergio Aguero became the club's all-time top scorer with a decisive goal in a thrilling 4-2 victory at Napoli that put them into the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.
The Argentine struck his historic 178th goal for City, which took him past Eric Brook’s landmark, in the 69th minute to help settle a magnificent contest between the English and Italian league leaders.
Headed goals from City’s unlikely central defensive strike force of Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones either side of halftime had seen Pep Guardiola’s side overturn a 21st-minute lead deservedly given to the Serie A leaders by Lorenzo Insigne.
Yet after Jorginho had equalised with a penalty just after the hour, Aguero’s predatory instinct ensured City were not to be denied in their bid to become the first English team to win a European match in Napoli’s forbidding San Paolo Stadium.
Raheem Sterling sealed the triumph in injury time, leaving City, now unbeaten in 22 matches, on a perfect 12-point haul in Group F, qualifying for the last 16 with two games left while Napoli face elimination on just three points in third place.
It was a victory that once again underlined how City, with their panoply of thrilling talent, look like genuine contenders to lift the European Cup as their performance showcased real heart as well as quality.
It was fitting too that an historic goal from their talisman Aguero should decorate the night, with City's captain Vincent Kompany hailing him as a “true legend”.
“I‘m very happy for this moment because it’s a one-time moment,” a delighted Aguero told BT Sport.
“We must keep going the same way now. It’s a long season and we must continue the same way.”
The second clash between two sides who had started the game with 86 goals between them this season always promised to be richly entertaining but City showed real steel in coming from behind for the first time in 13 games to beat Napoli for the second time in a fortnight.
Napoli, after dominating the early stages, went ahead by slicing apart City’s defence with the same slickness that Guardiola’s side have themselves been demonstrating all season in the Premier League.
Insigne charged down the left flank, took out two defenders by forging a swift one-two with Mertens and beat Ederson expertly from close range.
City moved gradually into a higher gear, though. Aguero came close to the record-breaking goal but soon after, in the 34th minute, Otamendi muscled in at the far post to head home Ilkay Gundogan’s pinpoint cross from the right.
With momentum having changed completely, Stones headed against the bar and three minutes after the break another of his rocket headers struck the underside of the bar with goal-line technology confirming it had crossed the line.
It was the England defender’s third Champions League goal of the season -- more than any of City’s attacking jewels.
Napoli were far from finished as Insigne hit the woodwork himself with a fine strike and when Leroy Sane brought down Raul Albiol, Jorginho converted coolly from the spot.
The defining passages of play saw Ederson make a wonderful save from Jose Callejon before a lightning break from Sane ended with the ball falling to Aguero, who finished in the ruthless fashion that has seen him compile his tally of 178 goals from just 264 appearances.
Those moments in particular left the excellent Insigne lamenting afterwards: “There is so much regret. It’s an unfair result for what we did. It is regrettable because we have put down the strongest team in Europe for much of the race.”
As the game continued to throb from end to end, the final word went to Sterling who struck from close range after being freed by the brilliant Kevin de Bruyne. The win ensured City’s qualification for the knockout stages for the fifth season in succession.
Liverpool patience pays off with 3-0 win
Liverpool were rewarded for their patience as they eventually overcame some resilient defending from Slovenia’s Maribor to win 3-0 at Anfield in their Champions League Group E match on Wednesday.
The result leaves Juergen Klopp’s side top of the group on eight points -- one ahead of Sevilla and three clear of Spartak Moscow -- and a win in Seville in the next game will secure their place in the last 16.
Maribor had learned their lesson after suffering an embarrassing 7-0 home defeat in Slovenia and defended in numbers, keeping a compact shape and allowing Liverpool plenty of possession but few chances.
Yet second-half goals from Mohamed Salah, Emre Can and substitute Daniel Sturridge wrapped up the win and ensured Liverpool did not pay a heavy price for James Milner’s failure to score from the penalty spot.
Liverpool were without defender Dejan Lovren and Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who were both ruled out with thigh injuries, and Klopp gave only a second start to former Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left of a front three.
Liverpool suffered a further injury blow when their Dutch central midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum pulled up with an ankle problem after 17 minutes to be replaced by captain Jordan Henderson.
Maribor keeper Jasmin Handanovic was well protected by his defenders, but had to produce a superb save on the half hour to tip a Roberto Firmino header on to the bar.
After a frustrating first half, Liverpool finally broke through in the 49th minute when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross from the right was expertly flicked home by Salah, who leapt to meet the ball and turn it goalward from a tight angle.
The home side should have doubled their advantage four minutes later when Firmino turned superbly to beat his marker Aleksander Rajcevic, who then brought down the Brazilian inside the area to concede a penalty.
Yet Handanovic was up to the task again, guessing right and diving to push Milner’s spot kick on to the post. It was Liverpool’s fourth straight missed penalty at Anfield.
The cushion of a second goal arrived though in the 64th minute when Can upped the tempo, playing a swift one-two with Milner before confidently driving home from the edge of the box.
Substitute Sturridge made it 3-0 in the final minute when he was spotted, unmarked at the back post by Alberto Moreno following a short corner and had time to control before firing home.
Dortmund heading out of Champions League after APOEL draw
Borussia Dortmund managed only a frustrating 1-1 draw at home against APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League on Wednesday to see their hopes of a knockout spot all but evaporate with two matches left in Group H.
Raphael Guerreiro put them ahead in the 29th and the Germans, 2013 finalists, should have scored several more in the first half before APOEL’s Mickael Pote stunned the home crowd with a superb equaliser six minutes after the restart.
The result did neither team a favour with both on two points from four matches, five behind second-placed Real Madrid, who lost to group leaders Tottenham Hotspur.
Dortmund, who host Tottenham on Nov. 21 before travelling to Madrid for their final group game, had four shots on goal after only 10 minutes.
Desperate for their first win in the group that would keep their slim qualification hopes alive, they were in complete control from the start.
APOEL kept plenty of bodies behind the ball and looked to have tamed Dortmund until a defence-splitting pass from Shinji Kagawa on the half hour sent Guerreiro through for the first goal.
Dortmund, who face Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga on Saturday, squandered a bagful of chances through Japan international Kagawa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
They were punished for their wastefulness when Pote turned beautifully in the box and fired in the equaliser in the 51st minute, his second goal against Dortmund after also scoring in their draw in Cyprus.
Despite having more than 70 percent possession and hitting the bar with Aubameyang late in the game the hosts could not find the winner.