City wobble souring exit of Pellegrini

Above: Alexis Sanchez (left) celebrates scoring the second equaliser for Arsenal with Theo Walcott, as Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart looks on dejected. Left: Despite a half-empty stadium, City manager Manuel Pellegrini still applauds the fans for thei
Above: Alexis Sanchez (left) celebrates scoring the second equaliser for Arsenal with Theo Walcott, as Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart looks on dejected. PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES
Above: Alexis Sanchez (left) celebrates scoring the second equaliser for Arsenal with Theo Walcott, as Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart looks on dejected. Left: Despite a half-empty stadium, City manager Manuel Pellegrini still applauds the fans for thei
Despite a half-empty stadium, City manager Manuel Pellegrini (above) still applauds the fans for their support throughout his three years in charge of the club. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

Fans leave early at manager's last home game as draw puts club in danger of falling out of top four

LONDON • As far as goodbyes go, this was not what Manuel Pellegrini would have envisioned for his 57th and final home game as Manchester City manager.

Sunday's 2-2 draw with Arsenal meant that it is no longer in City's hands to finish among the top four of the Premier League and qualifying for the Champions League. It also raises the prospect that Pellegrini's successor, Pep Guardiola, starting life at the club in the Europa League.

That disappointing result, coupled with a half-empty Etihad Stadium as Pellegrini took to the pitch to deliver a short farewell speech, was an underwhelming send-off for an man who has brought a Premier League title and two League Cups to the blue half of Manchester.

The 62-year-old Chilean, who succeeded Roberto Mancini in 2013 and led City to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time this season, refused to blame the supporters who left early.

He said: "It was not the way we wanted to finish the season. We wanted to qualify for the Champions League and win our game today. But for me, it was three wonderful years, three unforgettable years. All I can say to the fans is thanks. I will never forget you.

"Most of all, don't change. Continue the same way because this team needs you and I'm sure that next year they will be a very successful team in all the competitions."

City led twice through Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne, only for Arsenal to reply on each occasion through Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez.

The point saw Arsenal move to the brink of qualifying for the Champions League for the 19th successive season. Victory over Aston Villa on Sunday will secure third place and Arsenal could even pip local rivals Tottenham Hotspur to the runners-up spot if Spurs lose at Newcastle United.

"It is in our hands now, but we have seen again today we just want to finish the job," said Gunners boss Arsene Wenger. "Look at the results today. Our character has been questioned a few times this season and we gave the right response today, that's on the pitch.

"Overall, we have the best results against the top four teams. That doesn't come without character."

The only point of concern for Wenger was a knee injury sustained by Danny Welbeck that forced him off midway through the first half.

The England forward underwent a scan yesterday and the results will be eagerly awaited by both Wenger and England manager Roy Hodgson, who will name his squad for Euro 2016 on Thursday.

"I hope we don't have bad news," Wenger said. "Danny's a strong boy. At half-time I looked at him and he was very down, so he must have been in pain."

Pellegrini will be hoping that fifth-placed Manchester United drop points in their final games against West Ham and Bournemouth.

He said: "We deserve to be in the Champions League next year because, for 37 games, we are always among the Champions League spots. I hope that we are not going to lose that spot in the last game."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline 'City wobble souring exit of Pellegrini'. Print Edition | Subscribe