Pep sad as he felt City players deserved more

LONDON • Pep Guardiola strode almost nonchalantly into the press conference after his team's third consecutive home draw - 1-1 with Middlesbrough - in the Premier League on Saturday and offered reporters an analysis that defined the difference between sadness and disappointment.

What he felt was sadness for his players, not disappointment at their performance.

He did not moan about Middlesbrough's ultra-defensive performance, especially in the first half; he just felt his players did not get what they deserved.

"We played good," he said, "I don't have regrets. When you don't deserve, you don't deserve. When we lost at White Hart Lane, I said they were better, so congratulations. On days like today, I am sad because I don't think my players deserved that."

That is arguable. City are making a habit of 1-1 home draws. In all three games - Everton and Southampton were the other opponents - they had most of the possession and the bulk of the chances.

But they do not always get it done and they were far sharper against Barcelona in midweek than they were on Saturday.

Sergio Aguero's 150th City goal gave Guardiola's men the lead at half-time, but the Argentina international missed two good second- half chances to add to that tally.

The hosts were made to pay for their profligacy in stoppage time, when Marten de Roon headed in his first Middlesbrough goal from George Friend's cross.

"We need to improve in both boxes, both offensive and defensive, to score goals and not concede," Guardiola said. "In the second half, we didn't play like the first one, but I think they had one chance at the beginning of the second half and another in the last minute."

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka commended the performance of goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who made a series of saves in the first half to frustrate City.

"Victor is really important and I am really pleased for him because his first games were really good and as a 'keeper you need a lot of confidence," he said. "I tried to transmit my confidence to him and he is showing how good he is. He is a leader in the dressing room... and he is going to help us a lot."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2016, with the headline 'Pep sad as he felt City players deserved more'. Print Edition | Subscribe