Pep Guardiola hailed Gabriel Jesus for delivering on the biggest stage as Manchester City stunned Real Madrid to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
Jesus forced and then took advantage of two mistakes from Raphael Varane to set up Raheem Sterling and then score himself in a 2-1 victory over the Spanish champions at the Etihad Stadium.
The result secured a 4-2 aggregate win in the last-16 tie and booked City’s place in the last-eight mini-tournament in Lisbon, where they will play Lyon on Saturday week.
Jesus has had to shoulder the burden of leading the City attack in the absence of the prolific Sergio Aguero and Guardiola felt the Brazilian’s performance marked a big step up in his career.
City manager Guardiola said: “Gabriel was the man (of the match) for these two games. He scored in Madrid and provoked the penalty, here he made the assist and scored the goal. He was so decisive for us.
“He always helps us for more than goals, but of course for a striker it’s important to score. Big players have to show on big stages, in big games, and against the king of this competition he showed it twice.
“I think he made an incredible step forward to say, ‘Here I am and I can win games by myself.’”
City showed no desire to sit back on the 2-1 lead they claimed from a memorable victory at the Bernabeu in February.
Varane was caught dwelling in possession too long by Jesus, who quickly squared for Sterling to tap home his 100th City goal after nine minutes.
Real responded well and pulled level with a brilliant header from Karim Benzema after 28 minutes but it was to be City’s night.
There was no crowd to will them on but Guardiola’s side showed a ferocious intensity throughout.
Their reward came when Varane failed to clear a long ball under pressure from Jesus in the 68th minute and then attempted to head back to Thibaut Courtois. It proved a weak effort and Jesus made no mistake as he nipped in and dinked over the keeper.
Guardiola said: “We are more than satisfied, of course, especially for the players to go to Portugal and try to make the next step. We know exactly which team we beat, so we’re incredibly satisfied.
“We showed ourselves what we wanted to do, we showed the opponent what we wanted to do. We didn’t go to defend at 1-1, we went to score a goal.
“We created enough chances to score more goals. Courtois made incredible saves but it is more than deserved to be in the next stage.”