Pep 'proud' of City digging deep after European exit

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero turning away in celebration after equalising in the 69th minute as City drew 1-1 with Liverpool at home. Only one point separates both teams.
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero turning away in celebration after equalising in the 69th minute as City drew 1-1 with Liverpool at home. Only one point separates both teams.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
James Milner.
James Milner.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Pep Guardiola won 21 trophies in seven years while in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich but said his Manchester City side's 1-1 draw with Liverpool in the English Premier League on Sunday was one of his happiest moments in management.

It was quite a statement from him, who was clearly still as breathless as the fans who watched a classic encounter at the Etihad Stadium when he spoke after the match.

"You cannot imagine. It is one of the happiest days of my career as a manager. I am so proud," Guardiola, whose side were knocked out of the Champions League by Monaco in midweek, said.

The hosts fell behind to James Milner's 51st-minute penalty but earned a point thanks to Sergio Aguero's 69th-minute equaliser.

The draw meant both sides dropped points in what is becoming a fierce battle to finish in the top four.

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Asked why his side's performance had filled him with pride, Guardiola said it was because of how they responded to their bitter European exit.

"When you approach one game after 10 games winning, it's nothing special. But you have to consider the situation we played this game, how we played against them, a top team," he said.

"They have exceptional players. This means a lot to me. That is why I am so happy."

However, Guardiola pointed out that sharper finishing is required to take City to the next level, explaining that his forwards' lack of ruthlessness in front of goal was holding the team back.

He also called for an "urgent" referees' summit and expressed his dismay at the standard of officiating in England after the match.

Michael Oliver, the referee, did not award City a penalty when Milner clipped Raheem Sterling as he tried to tap in from close range.

At the other end, Sadio Mane thought that he should have won a spot kick after tangling with Nicolas Otamendi.

Guardiola would not comment on specific incidents, but it is clear that the Spaniard is unhappy with a number of decisions that have been taken by referees this term.

"You know my opinion about the referees," he said.

"What happened this season is something I have never seen in my life. They have to sit and analyse why this amount of things happen, not (only) in Manchester City games, but in all the games."

Jurgen Klopp's side are now unbeaten in 10 games against their fellow top-six sides this season.

"To get a point at Manchester City for each team in the world is absolutely okay," said the Liverpool manager.

"They deserved the goal, but we could have scored more. Two highly motivated sides, both wanted to win until the last seconds."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Pep 'proud' of City digging deep after European exit'. Print Edition | Subscribe