Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe gave further evidence of being the future and Radamel Falcao continued his glorious Indian summer at the Etihad Stadium, but it was Sergio Aguero's street-fighting determination to prove he is still the man for the here and now that stole the show in Manchester City's astonishing 5-3 Champions League win over Monaco.
The last-16 tie was being billed as a showdown between European football's more prodigious sharp shooters until Gabriel Jesus' metatarsal had other ideas at Bournemouth last week.
It meant Aguero, City's premier marksman and talisman since joining as a club-record signing in 2011, could re-stake his claim to that status, having been dislodged by the 19-year-old Brazil international.
WOW!! February 21, 2017
In Monaco's always dapper red-and-white corner was Mbappe, whose silky pace and power has drawn predictable and weighty comparisons with the principality's finest export, Thierry Henry.
The 18-year-old - making his first Champions League start, no less - served an early warning of his abilities in the 10th minute, gliding in from the left on halfway, approaching the City penalty area with palpable menace. Patrons of Highbury and Emirates Stadium will be familiar.
A clattering combination of luck and misjudgement from John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi brought Mbappe to a halt. It would be the City centre-backs' main method of repelling Monaco's swashbuckling attack on the sort of evening that prompts defenders to awaken in cold sweats for some time afterwards.
Aguero was once the youthful tyro – the youngest player to turn out in Argentinian top-flight at 15 years of age before hitting the headlines as a teen sensation at Atletico Madrid.
In contrast to the effortlessly purring Mbappe, everything Aguero did in the first half looked like a struggle. He failed to make contact with a pinpoint Kevin De Bruyne cross, passing up a finish of glaring simplicity.
It was another of the new kids on the block, Leroy Sane, who made mincemeat of the Monaco defence to set up Raheem Sterling's opening goal but Falcao – who frankly never had anything like this much fun in Manchester when he cut a forlorn figure at United two years ago – headed an equaliser soon after. A timely reminded to Aguero that the old instincts of a feast-or-famine trade can return in an instant.
First, the 28-year-old would be booked for simulation when he went down under a challenge from Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic in the area. Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz might have erred, but Aguero's lack of confidence as he looked to tumble, rather than attempt an effort on goal, was stark.
Mbappe is yet to experience form's fickle hand in such a way and appeared to be playing an entirely different game to a static City backline when he rifled in to give Leonardo Jardim's great entertainers a half-time lead.
Youngest French scorers in the 1. Karim Benzema2. Kylian Mbappé February 21, 2017
Falcao cannily won and then not-so-cannily missed an early second-half penalty, mere punctuation to a night of delirious madness that turned again as Aguero enjoyed the stroke of fortune every striker in a rut needs.
The Etihad crowd favourite struck firmly enough right-footed but could scarcely have anticipated Subasic coming over as a man with jellied eels for gloves. 2-2. Briefly.
Stones would have a redemptive moment as Monaco's set-piece defending failed late on but he might have accepted the turf swallowing him up when Falcao left him prone and then audaciously chipped a helpless Willy Caballero, who learnt to save penalties from a lethal marksman at his peril.
Le bijou de qui lobe Caballero !!!! L'AS Monaco reprend l'avantage dans ce match fou (2-3) February 21, 2017
Talking of things not to do on a football pitch, leaving Aguero unmarked to smash in a David Silva corner is one for Monaco to chalk off their list. Despite recent demotions and a difficult evening, Aguero had turned it all around.
Stones was the next to profit and Aguero, having repeatedly returned to a well that seemed to be running dry, stormed towards the embattled Subasic, who could only parry for Sane to add a deserved and potentially crucial fifth.
It was a lesson in perseverance for young Mbappe, who fired into the side netting but largely faded amid the madness. From renaissance man Falcao, there will be grudging admiration for a fellow master of his craft.
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