Pep Guardiola spoke of the "massive influence" that Kevin De Bruyne brings to Manchester City after the Belgian's winner on his 50th Champions League appearance for the club.
City snatched a 1-0 lead to take into the second leg of the quarter-final against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano, with De Bruyne rifling in from substitute Phil Foden's pass in the 70th minute.
The 30-year-old playmaker was heavily involved throughout, but it had looked like being a frustrating night for him before he finished off the excellent throughball from Foden.
Moments before the goal arrived, as Guardiola made a triple change that saw Foden, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus enter the action, the manager called De Bruyne over to the touchline.
He passed on a word of wisdom or two, and almost in a flash City hit the front in the tie, finally breaching an Atletico defence that had manfully held out against heavy pressure from the hosts in rainy Manchester.
City had 70.5 per cent of possession and Atletico were credited with no shots at the home side's goal. Still, the tie could yet change in Madrid, and City will be thankful talisman De Bruyne, one yellow card short of suspension, was not booked for hacking down Joao Felix in the first half.
Atletico boss Diego Simeone described City as "possibly the best team in the world", but the respect between the superstar coaches is mutual.
"It was a difficult game against a tough opponent," Guardiola said.
He said City were lacking "the right rhythm" at times in the second half, which spurred him to make the changes.
Guardiola said: "It's a good result fortunately. At the end we had one or two more chances with Kevin to score more goals, but even 1-0 or 2-0 to go to Madrid it is always difficult. But good result, we won the game."
Turning his thoughts to De Bruyne, the midfielder who had to hustle as a false nine for a large chunk of the game, Guardiola said: "I think he's in the best moment of the season right now.
"He's sharp, he's quick, he's positive, his influence on our game is massive. He made an exceptional goal in the combination with Phil."
De Bruyne had a game-high five shots, forcing Jan Oblak into a fine save from one free-kick before the goal arrived.
Foden's vision and slick pass to find De Bruyne's run was admirable, almost lifted from the De Bruyne playbook.
"He has a special quality. His first steps are massive," Guardiola told a news conference. "He had the composure to make an incredible assist to Kevin.
"We knew it in the beginning with Gabriel and him, when our game was a little bit flat they could change it when [Atletico] were a bit more tired. With Jack, we could continue to control the game. We did it and they were brilliant."
Guardiola said City needed a presence in attack, with Atletico defending in two lines of five, effectively giving up the idea of scoring themselves.
They had a couple of breaks towards goal, but Ederson was largely a spectator.
"They defend so well, so compact, and so deep," Guardiola said.
"We need the talent like Phil has shown. We were patient because you have to be against these type of teams. They want to be getting you anxious and nervous. You get disorganised a bit and they punish you up front because they have top, top players. They have incredible quality up front.
"They are so good and if you are not attacking in the right way they punish you."
Looking to the second leg next week, Guardiola added: "We will go there not to defend the result, but to try to win the game.
"We have to control our emotions and do what we have to do. They have faced this kind of knockout stages many times... more than us. It will be a good test for us and our maturity in this game."
Rival boss Simeone said he had planned for City to have Foden on the pitch from the first whistle.
The Atletico head coach, who has led his side to two Champions League final defeats, said: "We expected him to play as a starter because he is a very dynamic player.
"He came on in the second half, and any of the three who came on have different characteristics. In the same way that they talked about being patient at half-time, waiting for their moment, we also waited for it. With different weapons, we were both looking for the same thing."
Simeone will now plot for Atletico's home leg, when they will have to show more attacking verve, which could open gaps for City to exploit. City have a tough Premier League assignment to come first when they face title rivals Liverpool on Sunday, and that may help Atletico.
"You always have to come up with something better," Simeone said. "It's a long match, divided into two parts, here and at home. They don't care, they'll play the same way. They're possibly the best team in the world. But with humility we'll compete."