Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus says he has to “keep scoring” after his hat-trick inspired the Blues to come from behind to win their final Champions League Group C game at Dinamo Zagreb.
The Brazil forward, 22, who is spearheading City’s attack with Sergio Aguero out injured, has now scored five goals in his last five starts for the club.
And his form is likely to be key for City, who are third in the Premier League, 14 points behind leaders Liverpool.
“Now the goals are coming so I’m so happy but I cannot stop – I have to keep scoring,” Jesus said.
“I have to do my job. My job is to score goals and help the team, without the ball and with the ball. Last month, I was not scoring and I felt so bad because I have to score and help my team-mates.”
City, who qualified prior to their trip to Croatia, finished top of Group C, with Atalanta qualifying in second after their 3-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Dani Olmo had opened the scoring for the hosts, with a sparkling volley from Damian Kadzior’s right-wing cross which found the top corner.
But Pep Guardiola’s side dominated possession throughout and levelled before the break, with Jesus heading a Riyad Mahrez cross into the top left corner.
Jesus then put City ahead early in the second half, placing an effort into the bottom right corner after a one-two with Phil Foden and some neat footwork.
The Brazil forward tapped Benjamin Mendy’s cross into an unguarded Dinamo goal four minutes later but he was then substituted. Foden rounded off a fine display from the visitors, prodding in Bernardo Silva’s cross, to give the score an emphatic feel.
City advance to the knockout stages unbeaten in the competition this term and will be one of the seeds in Monday’s last-16 draw.
Dinamo’s defeat, coupled with Atalanta’s victory, sees the Croatian champions finish bottom of the group to miss out on a place in the Europa League.
Foden capitalises on chance to impress
With City having already confirmed their passage into the last 16, Guardiola made eight changes from Saturday’s derby defeat against Manchester United – most notably handing Foden a rare opportunity to impress from the start.
While Foden’s last Premier League start came in May, the 19-year-old has been a regular in Guardiola’s match-day squads albeit as a perennial substitute.
But the youngster still displayed flashes of the talent that has seen him described by many, including Guardiola, as the possible heir apparent to the club’s Spanish playmaker David Silva.
Silva, 33, who has enjoyed nine trophy-laden seasons in Manchester is due to leave the club at the end of the season and while Foden cannot be considered a like-for-like replacement just yet, this performance will have done him little harm.
He started slowly and was guilty of skewing two long-range efforts horribly wide but he improved as the game developed.
He rarely gave possession away, completing 92% of his passes and made several timely interceptions in front of his own defence.
His touch to Jesus for City’s third goal showed his football intelligence, while his goal was a welcome reward for an industrious, rather than scintillating, display.
Another City player who could take satisfaction from his evening’s work was Jesus, who recorded his second ever Champions League hat-trick with clinical display in front of goal.
While Guardiola’s side started sluggishly as an attacking force, the Brazil forward remedied that with his and City’s first attempt on goal, brilliantly climbing to head in Mahrez’s cross at the far post.
That moment provided the visitors with impetus and sparked their best spell of the game either side of the interval.
Jesus’ efforts also saw him become the youngest Brazilian player to reach 10 goals in the Champions League as he overtook Neymar, who accomplished the same feat aged 23 years and 75 days.
And on a night of milestones, Jesus also brought up his 100th career goal for club and country.
“It’s special,” added Jesus who also scored a hat-trick in the competition against Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018.
“When I was young, I’d think about the Champions League – I wanted to play, I wanted to score, I wanted the ball. For me it’s a very special moment when I score goals and a hat-trick as well.”
With Aguero missing for the fifth consecutive game after picking up an injury against Chelsea in November, the form of his replacement, Jesus, would have been an encouraging sight for Guardiola.
Man of the match – Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
Foden emulates Rooney, Walcott and Sancho – the stats
- Manchester City have scored 501 goals in 199 games in all competitions under Pep Guardiola – 96 more than any other English team since the Spaniard was appointed in 2016.
- Dinamo Zagreb have only won one of their six Champions League meetings with English sides (W1 D1 L4), with their only win coming at home to Arsenal in September 2015.
- Each of Gabriel Jesus’ last 14 goals for Man City in all competitions have come away from the Etihad (inc. neutral venues). In fact, Jesus became the first player under the age of 23 to score multiple hat-tricks in the Champions League.
- Man City’s Gabriel Jesus (22y 252d) became the youngest Brazilian player to reach 10 goals in the Champions League – overtaking Neymar (23y 75d), with the City forward now on 12 CL goals.
- Riyad Mahrez has been directly involved in 10 goals in nine Champions League starts for Man City (2 goals, 8 assists).
- Phil Foden, who made his 50th appearance for Man City tonight, has now scored three Champions League goals for the club; the joint-most by an English teenager in the competition alongside Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott and Jadon Sancho.