Sport Soccer

Sunday 18 March 2018

Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta praised by Man City boss Pep Guardiola

Pablo Zabaleta has played his last home game for Manchester City
Pablo Zabaleta has played his last home game for Manchester City

Pep Guardiola hailed Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta after Manchester City tightened their grip on a Champions League position with a comfortable 3-1 victory over West Brom.

Aguero did not get on the scoresheet but was instrumental as City moved up to third in the Premier League while Zabaleta bade an emotional farewell to the Etihad Stadium.

Zabaleta, the long-serving right-back, announced last weekend he would be leaving the club at the end of the season.

Tributes to the defender were plentiful but, in terms of business, City were ruthless with goals coming from Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure. Aguero had a hand in all three.

City boss Guardiola said: "He didn't score today but he helped us to make assists - he made the assist for the first goal, with the pass to Kevin, and the second one and third one with double pass with Yaya.

"Today he played really good. It was an amazing performance."

Zabaleta's name was chanted throughout by the crowd, even though he started on the bench. He entered to a hero's reception just after the hour and was honoured after the game in an on-field presentation.

Guardiola said: "It was a perfect night, especially for Pablo. It's my first year here but when I see what I saw tonight, I realise the impact of this guy at the club.

"Seeing women cry on the videos means a lot. It was a perfect night for him and his family. He's a legend for this club, like Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero."

Arsenal's victory over Sunderland on the same night meant City's bid to secure a Champions League spot will go to the final weekend of the season.

However, on such form and with a healthy goal difference in their favour, they will be confident of holding off Liverpool and the Gunners and claiming the necessary result at Watford on Sunday.

Guardiola said: "It was a good night and it's in our hands to finish third. We go to London to win the game.

"I would not say it's done, fourth, but Arsenal have to win five or 6-0 to qualify fourth. But we are there. We will travel and try to put in a good performance and win."

Zabaleta himself struggled to hold back the tears as the club presented him with a lifetime season ticket, among other tributes, after the game.

He said: "When I first came to Manchester I never thought it would be that long to be honest. Being here from day one is something that has made me feel very proud. It's been a wonderful nine years.

"In life at times you have to make tough decisions and I always think the best for myself, for the family and for the club especially. I feel it's the right time for me to go on but believe me, I love this club so much.

"Thank you to the fans, to everyone... because they made me a better player and a better person and it was a big pleasure to play for the shirt.

West Brom's performance was a poor one. The visitors created little aside from scoring a late consolation through Hal Robson-Kanu.

Manager Tony Pulis, whose side slipped a place to ninth after a sixth loss in seven matches, said: "City deserved to win the game - they were better than us.

"The two quick goals really set them up. When they got the third you are sitting there thinking we are staring down the barrel here at a hatful of goals, but the lads really showed a lot of character the last 20-25 minutes.

"I think we have been a little bit unfortunate at the back end of the season to catch Chelsea and City having to win against us. That makes it even more difficult."

Press Association

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport