Guardiola blames first half for disastrous Man City exit
Refuses to point finger at defence after defeat in Monaco
Pep Guardiola has refused to blame Manchester City’s defence for their Champions League exit. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters
Pep Guardiola denied Manchester City’s defence was to blame for their Champions League elimination as the manager stated it occurred because all of his players “were not there” in the first half against Monaco.
The French side knocked City out via away goals on a 6-6 aggregate after overturning a 5-3 deficit from the last-16 opening leg at the Stade Louis II. The defeat over two legs means that for the first time as a coach Guardiola leaves the competition in the last 16 after reaching a minimum of the semi-finals in each of his seven previous attempts.
His team were particularly disappointing before the interval as they allowed goals from Kylian Mbappé and Fabinho after eight and 29 minutes. For each of these City should have defended better and after Leroy Sané appeared to have saved City with a 71st- minute finish, there were further questions over the defence when Tiemoué Bakoyoko scored what proved to be the winner with a header from a free-kick.
Guardiola said: “No, it’s not about the defence. Today was not about that – why was the second half a problem with the defence? The problem was the first half when we were not there. 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 more than 45 minutes.
“It’s not about the defence and the goalkeeper. In the second half we won the second balls and how many chances did they create? Nothing. The gap between our first- and second-half performances was too big,” Guardiola added. “It will help us a lot in the future and [WE WILL]learn from that. That is my feeling now.”
Guardiola admitted he was unable to persuade his players they should adopt his attacking ethos despite imploring them to do so. “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,” he said.
“My mistake was being not able to convince them to do that. I did in the second half, but it was too late.
“All managers make mistakes. If the other manager wins, he’s the better one. But I don’t think it was down to a tactical mistake. It’s simple. The difference between the first and the second half – the second half we tried to win the game.
“We tried to play. I did it all my career in that way. I was sometimes in semi-finals, losing some of them looking to score goals. But today the problem was the first half. We weren’t there.”
Guardiola was hired to win the European Cup for City. That will now have to wait. “I tried. And I will try again,” said the Catalan. “Playing like we have done this season, like in the second half, would have been enough.
“Congratulations to Monaco for qualifying. In that level, you have to play more than 45 minutes. We only played for 45 minutes. We created a lot of chances then, but our strength is to be aggressive without the ball. The first half we were a little bit slow in everything, which is why we have conceded a lot of goals in Europe.”