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 secured their place in 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 to 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, while Napoli face elimination on just three points in third place.
The second clash between two sides who had started the game with 86 goals between them this season always promised to be hugely entertaining.
But City demonstrated both real quality and heart as they won for the second time in a fortnight against a team Guardiola rates as one of the best in Europe.
Napoli, after dominating the early stages, sliced 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.
It was the first time in 13 matches that City had gone behind, but after being a distant second best for the first half-hour, they finally clicked into gear.
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 from some distance, and three minutes after the break, another rocketed header struck the underside of the bar, with goal-line technology confirming it had crossed the line.
Napoli were far from finished as Insigne hit the woodwork himself with a fine strike, and when Leroy Sané 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 Sané ended with the ball falling to the sharp Aguero, who finished magnificently.
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.
It ensured City’s qualification for the knockout stages for the fifth season in succession.