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Man City reach UEFA Champions League last 16

MANCHESTER (AFP) – Manchester City powered into the Champions League knockout stages as Erling Haaland banished fears over his fitness with a double in Tuesday’s 3-0 win against Swiss side Young Boys.

Pep Guardiola’s team have won all four of their Group G matches, ensuring their progress to the last 16 with two games to spare.

Haaland was fit to start at the Etihad Stadium after hurting his ankle in the first half of City’s 6-1 win over Bournemouth on Saturday. And the Norway striker showed there was no lingering injury issue as he took his Champions League goal tally to a remarkable 39 in 34 matches.

He put City ahead with a first-half penalty and netted again with a brilliant long-range effort after Phil Foden’s eye-catching strike doubled the holders’ lead.

Young Boys had Sandro Lauper sent off in the second half of a one-sided contest that extended City’s impressive streak of winning all 23 of their home games in 2023.

ABOVE & BELOW: Manchester City’s striker Erling Haaland shoots from the penalty spot to score his team’s first goal; and Haaland is substituted off the field. PHOTO: AFP

Sunderland hold the English record with 24 successive home wins, a mark that dates back to 1891 and 1892.

City are also unbeaten in their past 17 Champions League games and Guardiola now has the opportunity to rest players in the last two group matches if he wishes, instead prioritising Premier League fixtures against Tottenham and Crystal Palace.

“Of course we are incredibly happy to have qualified with two games left. Finish first in the group? We have time to think about it,” Guardiola said.

“Maybe we were not sweet enough in the last moment to score more goals. But the word that defines this group for many years is consistency.

“We have high standards and that is why we are still in the Premier League up there and qualified from the Champions League.”

The only dark clouds for Guardiola were injuries to John Stones, who faces a lengthy period out of action after suffering a first-half injury, and Manuel Akanji, who was replaced by Kyle Walker after sustaining a back problem in the pre-match warm-up.

“Manu had a problem in the back. Unfortunately John, he felt (injured) again. I feel so sorry for him,” Guardiola said.

“It is a big loss for us. He is so important for what he does. He will recover, the season is long.”

City defeated Young Boys 3-1 in Bern a fortnight ago and it didn’t take long for the treble winners to reestablish their supremacy.