Pep Guardiola congratulated his players on a job well done after twice coming from behind to draw 2-2 with Lyon.
The French team, who had pulled off a shock victory at the Etihad in the opening game of the group, harried the Blues all night before a lively crowd close to 60,000 and left frustrated that they could not hold on for the victory .
It was a jolt to the system for City, who used to steamrolling opponents domestically.
But while a point was not enough to secure top spot, it confirmed Champions League qualification for the Blues, booking their place in December's draw for the last-16.
As far as the manager concerned, mission accomplished.
"Personally, qualifying for the last 16 is the happiest day between August and December, because we can now play the Premier League and the cups and prepare ourselves for February," he said.
"We need the squad to compete against the 16 best teams in Europe."
Guardiola's elation and qualification is underlined by how hard he thinks the competition is. City has been heavy favors in every game they have entered and were favourites with the bookies to win the tournament before a ball was kicked.
Declaring Lyon as one of the best teams he had faced – he said the same about Napoli last season – the manager talked up the competitiveness of the league.
"The Champions League showed me again it's a different competition," he said.
"The players are better so when you press and you do something they do not lose the ball, they make an extra pass. The demands are so high, they have weapons on set pieces, defensively so strong, they have quality up front. That's why when people say it's easy for Manchester City in the Champions League you can not imagine how confused people are.
"You do not have time, you can play games in the Premier League and still have 38 games to go, where there is a huge range of 90 and 180 minutes. games with the best teams in the CL, we would have time but mentally it is completely different.
"After losing the first game here it was not a surprise, we have one game left and in February we'll be there. Another year for City and now we can focus on the Premier League and other competitions and try to arrive in February with Everybody is fit and ready to compete against the best 16 teams in Europe. "
Man City top stories