Pep Guardiola admitted his Manchester City side were below their best as they edged out Feyenoord 1-0 to top their Champions League group.
City needed an 88th-minute winner from Raheem Sterling at the Etihad Stadium to extend their club record winning run to 17 matches.
By recent standards it was a flat performance from City but, having already secured a place in the last 16, Guardiola chose to focus on the result.
Guardiola said: “A win is better than not. We are going to analyse the performance – the first half we could do better – but sometimes it is difficult having won lots of games and being already qualified. We didn’t have the right tension to play but that is normal.
“We are still winning and we made a fantastic goal, from Raz after an excellent pass from (Ilkay) Gundogan.”
Sterling’s goal was his 11th in what has so far been a fine season.
Guardiola said: “You see he scores a lot of goals, that is good for him. He is scoring important goals and that is so important for a winger or a striker. But he is young and can still improve.”
Sterling himself admitted the win was not a convincing one.
The England international told BT Sport/ESPN Live: “What we’ve shown this season – no matter what competition it is – if it’s Champions League, Premier League, cup games, we’ve got the mentality that we want to win and even if it’s sometimes ugly, we just try to make sure we get the three points and the win.”
Napoli’s convincing victory over Shakhtar Donetesk ensured City would go through as winners of the group.
Their final group game against the Ukrainian side now has nothing riding on it for City.
Guardiola seemed unimpressed at a suggestion in his post-match press conference that Kevin De Bruyne may have deliberately got himself booked to miss that game through suspension.
“It was a clear yellow card, a clear foul,” he said, with no expression, after a long pause.
Guardiola resisted calls to hand a start to highly-rated youngsters Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz. Foden, the star of England’s recent Under-17 World Cup success, appeared as a 75th-minute substitute while Diaz came on in injury time.
Guardiola said: “I say big congratulations to the Academy. All the club has to be so proud, two young players, 17-18 years old, making their first appearance in the Champions League.”
Feyenoord, with no points, now cannot climb off the bottom of the group but manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst was pleased with the performance.
He said: “To concede a goal in the 88th minute was a bit harsh but you could also see the quality of the City squad.
“I think we deserved more today – we played a good game and could have scored before the 1-0 but overall I am very proud of the way we performed and represented our club today.”