Manuel Pellegrini paid tribute to goalkeeper Joe Hart after Manchester City kick-started their Champions League campaign with a last-gasp 2-1 win at Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday.
Sergio Aguero struck a late penalty winner as City completed a comeback from 1-0 down to claim their first points in Group D.
But it might have been a different story had Hart not been in inspired form in a compelling end-to-end encounter.
The England goalkeeper saved a penalty from Raffael as well as a series of other shots from the dangerous Brazilian and his team-mates during normal play at Borussia Park.
Pellegrini said: “Joe made three very important saves. He saved a penalty and after that also made brilliant saves. The performance of Joe was very important for us.”
City also had a number of chances but failed to take advantage and Aguero seemed to be enduring a particularly frustrating night in front of goal.
But the Argentinian battled on and stepped up to take the late penalty after he was fouled in the area.
The 27-year-old is yet to hit his best form this season and was recently hampered by a knee injury but Pellegrini praised his character.
Pellegrini said: “Sergio had clear chances to score. It’s not easy to score a penalty in the last minute, and when the foul for the penalty is on him also.
“We know how important Sergio is for our team. We hope the whole team will change.
“Now we need the international break because we have eight injured players and we don’t have many options.
“It is important for the players to beat Newcastle on Saturday and then after that we have 15 days.”
Hart was finally beaten by Lars Stindl in the 54th minute but City rallied and levelled through Nicolas Otamendi, who fired home on the rebound after a Martin Demichelis was blocked – according
to the officials – before the ball crossed the line. Replays suggested Demichelis might actually have scored but ultimately that did not matter and Pellegrini was pleased to get the result.
He said: “I think the first thing is it was a very important win – I think both teams deserved to win.
“Borussia Monchengladbach played very well for the first 65 minutes but Joe made some very good saves.
“We had opportunities we missed and they deserved to be winning 1-0, but for last 25 minutes we had a very strong reaction, scored the two goals and had other chances.”
Pellegrini added that midfielders Yaya Toure and David Silva, who had both been troubled by injuries in the build-up to the game, were substituted because they were not 100 per cent.
Monchengladbach’s interim coach Andre Schubert, who has revived the team’s spirits in recent weeks after a run of six successive losses, took positives from the hosts’ display.
Schubert said: “We are disappointed about the result. We had a lot of chances and it is sad we couldn’t actually profit from these.
“To lose to a penalty in the last minute is bitter for the team.
“But to think from where we were a couple of weeks ago, how confident the team were and how well they played was a real compliment to the team. I am really proud of the team.
“We are disappointed not to get the result but it was a great perform.”