Manchester City will need a couple of days to come to terms with the fate that has just befallen them but they will rise again, Pep Guardiola insisted after Real Madrid stunned the Premier League champions to reach the Champions League final.
Guardiola admitted it was "tough" after his players had collapsed to the turf in tears having somehow missed out on a showdown against Liverpool as Real Madrid's impossible, barely believable journey continued, Carlo Ancelotti admitting: "Something strange has happened."
Now City must react to keep their league title challenge going, starting at Newcastle on Sunday.
“We need one or two days but we will rise, we will come up,” Guardiola said, in a slow almost hushed tone, his look saying as much as his words could. “We will have do so, with our people. We did everything we could. We were really, really close but in the end we could not do it.”
Asked if this was his hardest European night as a coach, Guardiola replied: "I have had bad defeats in the Champions League before. (Such as) Barcelona against Chelsea when we played two exceptional games and couldn't make the final. But, yeah, it's tough. We can't deny it.
“We were so close to reaching a Champions League final. We didn’t play that good in the first half but we were much better in the second half, we controlled the game and we found the goal. Unfortunately, we could not finish (it) when we were close.”
There were less than three minutes remaining when Ferland Mendy performed a miracle, clearing the ball off his line and somehow keeping this competition’s great survivors alive again, yet even then no one imagined the even greater miracle that was to follow, still less the City manager.
With 40 seconds of normal time left, Madrid needed to score twice to even draw level. They had barely threatened until then, Guardiola said, but astonishingly they did just that.
Rodrygo Goes struck twice in 84 seconds. Then Karim Benzema put away an extra-time penalty to send Madrid through to face Liverpool in City's place. That sunk City here; the question now is whether it sinks them in the league too. It is Guardiola's task to ensure that they do not.
“That feeling that happens in football sometimes, that has happened in history, when you are leading but you get to the end and you are being dominated: that didn’t happen to us,” the City manager said. “We did not feel like we were under siege.
“We were in the lead, we had been very good in the second half and we had two (more) good chances, one of them very clear with Jack (Grealish). They attacked with five: four forwards and Militao. But at that moment we didn’t feel that we were in trouble with the way that they attacked.
“And just as the moment when we were at our best, they found the goal. Then one minute later, they found another.
“They have done it lots of times in their history so it could happen to us,” Guardiola said. But he insisted that did not play on his team’s mind – even though Thibaut Courtois had suggested they might be “not crapping themselves, speaking badly, but aware that anything could happen”.
“It might have been in their (minds) but not ours because we hadn’t lived that before,” he said. “But that can happen. Over 180 minutes we were brilliant, but this is about who scores more goals and they scored one more than us.” - Guardian