Friday 24 November 2017

Guardiola sorry after City lose plot against title rivals

Pep Guardiola apologised for the brawl. Photo: PA
Pep Guardiola apologised for the brawl. Photo: PA

Miguel Delaney

Pep Guardiola apologised for the chaotic aggression at the end of Manchester City's 3-1 defeat to Chelsea at the Etihad that saw Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho sent off, but insisted that the Argentine's much-criticised lunge on David Luiz - that will earn the striker a four-game ban - was not intentional.

Chelsea stayed top of the table, to also subject Guardiola to his first home defeat at City, by coming back from a goal down for the second game in a row to make it eight successive wins. That victory, however, came after a frantic match that saw the home side miss a series of chances, and referee Anthony Taylor make a series of calls that the City bench angrily disputed.

Read more: Blues triumph in red mist at City

One of those was in the 30th minute as Luiz appeared to shoulder Aguero, but he escaped sanction. City's frustration at all of that eventually spilled over in the final minutes, as the striker went into a one-on-one with Luiz two-footed, leaving him in a heap on the ground. That brought an instant red card and sparked a melee between many of the players and coaching staff, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois rushing out to confront Aguero, and even Diego Costa attempting to play peacemaker. In the middle of it, Fernandinho was also sent off for shoving Cesc Fabregas, who was booked along with Chelsea's Nathaniel Chalobah.

Fernandinho will receive a three-game ban, but Aguero will be suspended for four, receiving an additional match because of his previous ban this season.

Asked about the scenes, Guardiola said: "It is a pity it finished like this. It was the way the referee decided. It is a pity. I apologise."

The City manager did claim that Aguero's challenge was "not intentional".

"I don't think so," Guardiola said, when asked to clarify. "Maybe I have to understand many things here but the referee says red card, so red card . . . We accept that. It was a red card. Ok, we are going to deal with that."

Guardiola also put Fernandinho's intervention down to trying "to defend his team-mate". "It is a pity what happened at the end," the Catalan said. "Fernandinho went to defend his team-mate."

Despite the criticism referee Taylor received from the crowd, and the amount of discussion about his calls, Guardiola refused to blame the defeat on any decisions.

"We didn't win because we missed a lot of chances, not because of the referee. Never in my life in seven years [I criticise], I never . . . or maybe a few times, but I respect. It is just a game. I have to understand this is England. I didn't come here to change absolutely anything. I know the way you live. I am just here to understand, I need time to understand the decisions.

"I never speak about the decisions. Always I can improve or focus on what can help my team. The result happens. There are many things in the last game. I will speak with my team how we handle these situations. The way they handled the game they have to understand. It is completely different when I play in Italy from Spain so I have to adapt to English football and understand it, but again, we didn't win because we missed chances."

A beaming Conte described the win as an "important" experience, but said the last few minutes "wasn't good".

"I hope only that Luiz is not injured after this tackle. It is very difficult to explain this final part of the game. I support the referee."

Luiz himself meanwhile praised his Chelsea side for showing a strength that City could not. "It was a great game," the Brazilian said. "That's what you expect in the Premier League. It shows our character. We didn't lose our heads."

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