Saturday 24 March 2018

Pep Guardiola comes out fighting after Manchester City Euro exit

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola looks dejected
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola looks dejected

Andy Hampson

Pep Guardiola's bold plan to attack backfired as Manchester City crashed out of the Champions League in Monaco.

Fearing his defence would not be able to prevent Monaco scoring as they sought to overturn a 5-3 first-leg deficit in the last 16 tie, Guardiola gambled by chasing more goals.

The outcome was a 3-1 loss and defeat on away goals, a result for which the writing was on the wall after a lacklustre first-half performance.

With Yaya Toure on the bench, City failed to gain any meaningful possession and conceded twice within the opening half-hour to the outstanding Kylian Mbappe and Fabinho.

Leroy Sane did put City back ahead in the tie during a second-half rally but a powerful header from Tiemoue Bakayoko settled the affair 13 minutes from time.

All three goals City conceded raised questions of their defence, which contained only one specialist centre-back in John Stones. In front of them, only Fernandinho offered protection as the rest of the side was loaded with attackers.

Guardiola, however, refused to blame his tactics or his defence.

He said: "All managers make mistakes but I don't think it was down to a tactical mistake.

"The problem was the first half. We weren't there. We wanted to show personality, not to let them think, but they could pass and pass the ball. We forgot to do that in the first half.

"My mistake was being not able to convince them to do that. I did in the second half but it was too late."

Guardiola felt the forward players - Sane, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling with Sergio Aguero up front - should have offered more, even though City's lack of the ball in the first half gave them little opportunity to operate.

Guardiola said: "It's not about the defence. Our strikers have to be aggressive and pick the ball up, but we didn't, at this crucial time. That's why we are out.

"We have to play for more than 45 minutes. It's not about the defence and the goalkeeper."

The match was Guardiola's 100th in European competition as a manager but it was not one to celebrate. The result actually meant that, for the first time, the Spaniard had failed to take a side at least as far as the semi-finals.

Heralded as the best coach in the world, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss was recruited in the hope he could steer City to glory in the competiton.

He said: "I came here to win the Champions League? I tried, I tried - and I will try again."

Press Association

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