Raheem Sterling chipped in a late winner as Manchester City overcame an uncharacteristically sloppy display to beat Feyenoord 1-0 and clinch top spot in its Champions League group on Tuesday.
With Napoli beating second-place Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0, City would have already been assured of first place heading into the final round of matches in Group F.
Sterling ran onto Ilkay Gundogan’s through-ball and dinked a finish over Feyenoord goalkeeper Brad Jones in the 88th minute, a rare moment of class on a night when a weakened City lineup struggled for fluency.
It was City’s fifth straight win in the group and Pep Guardiola’s team, which holds an eight-point lead in the Premier League, remains unbeaten in all competitions this season.
Guardiola made seven changes from his last lineup in the Premier League and finished the game with Phil Foden, a highly rated midfielder who recently won the under-17 World Cup with England, on as a substitute for his competitive debut.
As a result, City lacked its usual flow — and it showed in Guardiola’s actions in the technical area. Toward the end of the first half, after another attack broke down, the clearly frustrated coach returned to the dug-out and slumped in his seat, shaking his head.
The sloppiness even extended to City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes, who was twice almost embarrassed after racing out of his area to intercept through-balls.
Sergio Aguero shot wide from close range midway through the second half with City’s best chance until Sterling’s strike, his 11th goal of what is set to be the most prolific season of his career.
Foden was given the final 16 minutes — as a replacement for Yaya Toure, a player twice his age — in a substitution that sparked one of the loudest cheers of the night inside Etihad Stadium.