Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola claimed he was “emotionally destroyed” after seeing his side overwhelm Bayern Munich to place one foot in the Champions League semi-finals.
You can only imagine how their opponents felt.
City have delivered statement Champions League performances under Guardiola before only for it all to end in tears.
For all their domestic brilliance, Guardiola’s outstanding work at Etihad Stadium will be judged – rightly or wrongly – through the prism of whether or not he wins Europe’s elite club competition, a crown he claimed twice at Barcelona.
City have found a variety of ways to exit the Champions League when it looked to be their year, from defeat in the final against Chelsea in 2021 to when they were hit by football’s version of a bolt of lightning against Real Madrid in the semi-final 12 months ago, conceding two goals in stoppage time when victory looked assured.
But this season feels different.
Bayern are dangerous, quality opponents, yet they were simply overpowered by City’s force of will and all-round quality.
The visitors threatened of course – Guardiola said he felt like he had aged a decade come the final whistle – but ultimately they just could not cope.
In the end Bayern seemed happy to stop any further damage, rather than try to pinch the goal that would give them a lifeline for the second leg in Munich.
This was not the stroll that the final scoreline might suggest. Bayern actually played very well until, like so many before them, they found City simply irresistible.
City had to scrap this out for an hour, former forward Leroy Sane in particular testing his old team-mates, but once they hit their stride they looked every inch a side capable of finally winning the Champions League.
There is many a slip, as they say, and they could yet face last year’s nemesis Real Madrid in the last four if they overcome Chelsea, while runaway Serie A leaders Napoli will test anyone.
City, however, will take huge confidence from the manner in which they defended with such fierce determination, while the striker signed to make the difference did exactly that once again.
Erling Haaland’s arrival was designed to ensure City got on the right side of the fine margins that have often thwarted them in the Champions League, and he did the job as creator and scorer as they opened up what is surely an unassailable advantage.
He crossed perfectly for Bernardo Silva to head the vital second goal with 20 minutes left then swooped on John Stones’ header in trademark fashion for his 45th goal of a remarkable season, a record in all competitions since the Premier League began, surpassing Ruud van Nistelrooy and Mohamed Salah.
Haaland might have been the headline act but plenty of other shared top billing with him on this rain-sodden, windswept Manchester night.
Ruben Dias was back to his outstanding best in defence, Nathan Ake continued his stellar season while Rodri controlled the engine room, aided by Stones in his role stepping out into midfield.
Silva was his waspish self in the forward areas while Jack Grealish’s lung-busting effort was personified by the way he pinched possession from Dayot Upamecano in the build-up to the second goal.
The fact that City had to fight this fine Bayern side for supremacy for so long and did so successfully will surely only add to the team’s belief that their time has finally come.
City look the complete package, the fear Haaland strikes into opposition defences and his own insatiable appetite for goals giving them an extra cutting edge that may just prove vital.
Guardiola cut an agitated figure throughout, often striding yards outside his technical area to make a point. And while he claimed that these were 90 minutes that had added years to his age, he must surely have come away highly satisfied.
It was night that had its tough times but ultimately turned out pretty much perfectly for Guardiola and City.
City have been favourites for the Champions League before. After this, they will be again.