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Saturday 23 June 2018

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Guardiola leaps to Sterling defence after forward’s inexplicable miss costs City

The England international has 19 goals to his name this season.

Raheem Sterling missed an open goal as Manchester City were held by Burnley Richard Sellars/PA)
Raheem Sterling missed an open goal as Manchester City were held by Burnley Richard Sellars/PA)

By Andy Hampson, Press Association Sport

Pep Guardiola refused to blame a glaring Raheem Sterling miss for Manchester City’s failure to win at Burnley.

Sterling sidefooted wide in front of an open goal in the second half of the Premier League leaders’ 1-1 draw at Turf Moor on Saturday.

With the score 1-0 at the time of the miss after 71 minutes, Sterling could have settled a hard-fought contest, but the Clarets made the most of the reprieve to equalise through Johann Berg Gudmundsson.

“It is football,” said City boss Guardiola. “Next day he is going to score a goal. Raheem scored against Southampton in the 96th minute. Today he missed one chance. That can happen.”

Sterling, who has scored 19 goals this season, was substituted soon after his miss, but Guardiola said the two events were not connected.

“No, I didn’t do that for that reason,” said Guardiola, whose side had opened the scoring with a superb Danilo strike after 22 minutes.

Another talking point was Guardiola’s decision to name only six substitutes. With John Stones and David Silva this week joining Fabian Delph, Benjamin Mendy, Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane on the sidelines, City were short on numbers. Even youngster Lukas Nmecha, recently added to the first-team squad as cover, was unavailable.

Guardiola said: “We didn’t have any more players. They are injured. I would like to have 18 players, but we had 17. I could have called one of the second team, but we decided they were not going to play.”

Guardiola confirmed that Stones, who was ill in midweek, was out with a minor knee injury.

Despite the result, Guardiola was nevertheless pleased with the performance against a tough opponent.

He said: “Of course we are sad for the dropped two points, but to come here and play the way we played is almost impossible. We controlled the long balls and we made an amazing build-up. Doing it in Burnley it is so complicated.

“What we have done today is – wow – one of the best performances we have done this season by far. We controlled many situations. That is why I am optimistic.”

Clarets manager Sean Dyche felt his side’s point was well deserved.

The hosts had also gone close to equalising when Aaron Lennon, making his full debut, had a thunderous shot tipped on to the woodwork by Ederson.

Dyche said: “It was a very good point. We have lost to these twice and done quite well, but we had to change something and went to two up front. We wanted to go long and strong and play into their back line.

“It didn’t really work first half, but we stayed in it and that’s an important thing. Second half, they came out and controlled it in the first 15 minutes, but you’ve got to be diligent and do all the ugly stuff, which our players are willing to do.

“Then we grew into the game. Their keeper makes an unbelievable save and then there is an unbelievable miss. That changed the feeling, the stadium erupted, everyone came with us.

“Then we played some good stuff, the quality was on show and it was a fantastic goal.”

Press Association

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