Pep Guardiola apologises to Gabriel Jesus over penalty mix-up

Manchester City manager said no when the striker asked to take late penalty at Anfield

Pep Guardiola has apologised to Gabriel Jesus after refusing the Manchester City striker's request to take the late penalty at Liverpool that Riyad Mahrez blazed over the bar.

Mahrez missed a glorious chance to give the Premier League champions a first win at Anfield in 15 years plus a two-point lead over Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the table with an 86th-minute penalty. It was the fifth time in eight attempts that the Algeria international had failed from the spot but despite his poor record and Jesus's appeals to take the penalty, Guardiola insisted that the £60m summer signing assume spot-kick duties with the regular taker, Sergio Agüero, substituted.

The City manager, who passed on his instruction via Benjamin Mendy, said: “During the training sessions every day I see Mahrez taking the penalties and it gave me a lot of confidence. It will be good experience for him, next time it will go in. Jesus wanted to [take it]. I apologise. It was my decision.”

Guardiola claimed City’s penalty, awarded after a foul by Virgil van Dijk on Leroy Sané, should not have been their only one of an otherwise uneventful game at Anfield. Martin Atkinson waved away appeals when Dejan Lovren caught Agüero in the first half and penalised Fernandinho for a foul on Van Dijk when the Netherlands international handled in the second.

“Normally for the last six, seven months the penalties were always Sergio’s but he was on the bench. He was on the pitch when the first penalty was not given,” the City manager said. “Maybe we need two penalties to score one goal. I would not like to speak about the referees, about the decisions. We should talk about the game, the football.

“I am comfortable with the performance. They didn’t have one shot on target. Doing that at Anfield, that is so complicated. That is why I have so much credit for what we have done. OK, we miss a bit in front, a little more creativity and pace to finish the action, but it is not easy because [Liverpool] are so strong.

“We cannot forget against which team we compete and we made that performance. We controlled much better than in the past, and with the second balls, on which they are masters. Don’t lose the ball in dangerous positions because when you lose the ball there they counterattack with [Roberto] Firmino, [Sadio] Mané and [Mohamed] Salah. That’s why we controlled it so good today.”

Jürgen Klopp had no complaints over the penalty awarded and was content with a point following a tough series of fixtures plus the midweek Champions League defeat at Napoli. “I’m really happy with what the boys did, I thought how we defended was brilliant,” the Liverpool manager said.

“If somebody had told me after eight fixtures we would have 20 points I would say yes but with this fixture list, I would buy it. Now the players go off and play the Nations League, which is the most senseless competition in the world of football. We have to start thinking about the players. You call the manager of any country now and say can you leave two players out and he says he cannot.”

Liverpool lost James Milner in the first half to a hamstring injury that Klopp hopes will not sideline the in-form midfielder for an extended spell. Klopp said: “I asked him if it is a big one and he said, ‘I don’t think so but it is big enough that I have to go off.’”

He noted that his England midfielder Jordan Henderson had barely two weeks’ rest following the World Cup in Russia.

The German coach was pleased with the point which left Liverpool and City level with Chelsea on 20 points and ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. “And Arsenal are two points behind and they won six games in a row. It looks like they are in a good shape,” said Klopp.

“If somebody had told me after eight fixtures 20 points I’d say yes but with this fixture list I would buy it,” he added. “I am really happy with what the boys did. I thought how we defended was brilliant. We have played City often and they are outstanding. It was really intense and both showed respect for the other team,” he said. – Guardian service

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