Rome: Manuel Pellegrini celebrated Manchester City`s remarkable brinkmanship in securing a Champions League knock-out spot on Wednesday by hailing the champions` Roman warriors rather than the absent leading players.
The unruffled Chilean, who must have feared a quick exit before his side made a remarkable comeback against Bayern Munich last month, almost made it sound as if City`s 2-0 win at Roma had been merely routine.
Instead, it might actually have secured his job with City`s Middle East paymasters unlikely to have easily accepted another early capitulation in the flagship event.
Yet after all the talk of absent friends like the injured Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany and suspended Yaya Toure, Pellegrini wanted to salute the more unsung heroes who pulled off perhaps the most satisfying triumph of his reign.
"I had a lot of trust in what we could do. I said I didn`t want to talk about players not in the team. You must decide to play without Kompany, without Yaya Toure, without (substitute David) Silva, without Kun (Aguero)," he told Sky Sports.
"It`s difficult for a team. This team deserves a little more credit than the press always gives us.
"Trust has been key. Against Roma in Manchester we played the worst game of the season and we drew. We were sure playing the way we have played in recent weeks we must win."
Goalkeeper Joe Hart, who made a series of splendid saves, also picked up on the theme as he evidently felt City had proved a point to their doubters.
"People wrote us off without our key players but we`re a strong unit, we believed in what we could do," he said.
"You don`t win two Premier League titles in three years easily. We have resolve, character and fantastic players. Add that together and you`ve got a chance."
City still have their work cut out with every chance that they will draw one of the continent`s elite sides in the last 16.
Yet Pellegrini said he was going to forget about the next round until February and get back to concentrating on the domestic Premier League battle with Chelsea.
City, three points adrift of Chelsea, are at Leicester City on Saturday and Pellegrini is hopeful his captain Kompany will be back.
"It would have been a risk for him to play today as he has a problem with his hamstring and calf," he said.