Furious Pep tells refs to protect players
Cardiff City 0 Manchester City 2
An angry Pep Guardiola has declared it will be impossible for Manchester City to win the quadruple this season because of the lack of protection players receive from referees.
Guardiola's claim came after he revealed Leroy Sane could be out "for a month" with an ankle injury sustained after an horrendous late tackle by Cardiff City defender Joe Bennett during City's English FA Cup fourth-round victory.
Bennett was cautioned for that tackle and was eventually sent off after another poor challenge on City substitute Brahim Diaz.
Guardiola marched on to the pitch at full-time to speak to referee Lee Mason and showed his annoyance throughout at Cardiff's physical approach.
"I said many times - the only thing they (referees) have to do is protect the players," Guardiola said afterwards, adding that he was making a general point and not one specifically about City.
"Please protect the players. Not the Manchester City players - all the players. Because it's not that one is more brave to kick, no…
"The only thing they can do is - protect the players. Or it will happen again, it will happen again. It happened once, it happened with Brahim again at the end.
"So please. For football in general. The players - they are the artists and you have to take care of them. That's why you are here and why I'm here. For them, the players.
"And the only thing they can do is to protect them. I've said many times here. Do you believe that the player who is stronger in that sense is stronger? It's not true."
Asked whether he feared for further serious injuries unless there was greater protection, Guardiola added: "Of course. Not my players, the players in general. It is not just one - it is many.
"Every team can play how they want. If they decide to play in that way, perfect. But there is one man (the referee), in black, he has to decide what is correct and incorrect.
"When you say: Why don't you win the four titles? I need the players to win the four titles. It is impossible for that to happen.
"When I said the 'Invincibles' that is not going to happen. The same…They asked me if we would be 'Invincible' in the Premier League and I said no. I do not have enough players; I have players out injured. It is impossible."
On Sane, who was substituted at half-time, after limping down the tunnel Guardiola added: "He will be out for a while - minimum two, three weeks, one month. We will see what exactly tomorrow. Ankle."
Sane's replacement, Sergio Aguero, also limped off at the final whistle after another heavy challenge.
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock, however, hit back. "They (City) dished out a bit as well," he said. "I think they had one of two naughty tackles.
"He's in England, isn't he? What do you expect? I suppose when you're like that you want everything to be nice and pretty but you don't get that in England. You get different challenges, don't you?"
Asked about Guardiola going onto the pitch, Warnock added: "I can't condone managers going off like that, can I?
"I think I might've got sent off. But it shows he cares. It's what you want. He's looking after his own team and he made his feelings heard."
Warnock criticised Bennett for being red-carded in injury-time. "It's absolutely pathetic - the tackle," he said.
"When you're on a booking to do something like that I think it's disrespectful to your team-mates really."
The cheeky brilliance of City's first goal owed much to what Guardiola and his coaching staff had gleaned on a trip to chilly Mansfield Town to watch Cardiff's third round replay.
It also owed a great deal to the skill and confidence of Kevin De Bruyne, who had the wherewithal to pass a free-kick into the net from the edge of the penalty area in the knowledge that Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge would station himself hugging the other post and - crucially - his defensive wall would jump.
So De Bruyne, as he has done before, simply rolled the ball underneath it with Guardiola later remarking that the wall jumping was something one of his assistant coaches, Domenic Torrent, had highlighted in a video session on the morning of this match.
That goal, and the manner of it, proved crucial. It led to a collective intake of breath from the Championship club, a further recognition of what they were up against, with Warnock later admitting he was left mouthing "wow" at such "a Rolls-Royce" of a player.
Guardiola had noticed another thing. He knew that Cardiff, gunning for promotion, would not only give it a go but would - bravely - do so by going man-to-man with City and that his players would have the talent to exploit that 'in-your-face' approach.
In the build-up to the match, Warnock quipped that Cardiff had not trained with a ball all last week in anticipation of chasing shadows. It proved no joking matter, at times.
There more than 32,000 inside the Cardiff City Stadium - the biggest attendance since they moved to their new home nine years ago, and the atmosphere crackled - until City claimed their second goal.
Cardiff did not give up, but the game itself was up when De Bruyne, typically, won the ball back, rolling it to Danilo who found Bernardo Silva.
His right-wing cross was met by Raheem Sterling who, somehow, was left unmarked inside the six-yard area, and he had the simple task of directing his header down into the turf, bouncing up and past Etheridge. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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