A whole new ball game for PEP

Manchester City's Chilean custodian Claudio Bravo saving Wolves midfielder Alfred N'Diaye's penalty in the shoot-out that City won 4-1. A squirrel running onto the pitch before kick-off was one of the game's few high points.
Manchester City's Chilean custodian Claudio Bravo saving Wolves midfielder Alfred N'Diaye's penalty in the shoot-out that City won 4-1. A squirrel running onto the pitch before kick-off was one of the game's few high points.PHOTO: REUTERS

City boss claims ball 'too light' as team grind to a draw before shoot-out win over Wolves

LONDON • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has criticised the weight of the match ball used in the English League Cup, after his team failed to score in their fourth-round match against Wolverhampton Wanderers but won 4-1 in the penalty shoot-out to advance to the quarter-finals.

Premier League leaders City have scored 32 goals in nine league games so far, the most by any side, but did not find the net against the Championship side as the score remained 0-0 after 120 minutes of active play.

Claudio Bravo then saved two Wolves penalties before Sergio Aguero scored the decisive spot kick. And while Guardiola was pleased with the victory, he expressed displeasure at the Mitre ball which is usually used in lower-tier matches.

"It is not acceptable, the ball was unacceptable for a high-level competition," City's Spanish manager said.

"It is too light, it moves all over the place, it is not a good ball. It is impossible to score with a ball like that and I can say that because we won, I'm not making excuses.

"All of my players said: 'What is that?' I'm sorry Carabao Cup is not a serious ball for a serious competition. It's for marketing, money, okay but it's not acceptable - it has no weight, nothing."

Asked if his players had had time to practise with the ball that was introduced at the start of the season for all English Football League (EFL) competitions but not the Premier League, the 46-year-old was dismissive.

"One day or two days, but the ball is bad for one year or two years, it's not acceptable. All the players complain," he added.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

I'm sorry Carabao Cup is not a serious ball for a serious competition. It's for marketing, money, okay but it's not acceptable - it has no weight, nothing.

PEP GUARDIOLA, Man City manager, criticising the EFL for using the Mitre ball.

The EFL responded yesterday and said that the ball meets the Fifa Quality Pro standard, and called for talks with Guardiola to discuss the issue.

Of Bravo, who also made four crucial saves during the match, Guardiola said: "Claudio gave us the chance to go through, I'm so happy for him, the way he's trained, a good performance and good penalties. I'm happy to win in this way."

Bravo was signed in the summer last year as 30-year-old Joe Hart's replacement but lost his starting berth to Ederson this season due to a series of high-profile mistakes.

Despite a dull affair at the Etihad, there was at least some entertainment for fans when a squirrel ran onto the pitch just before kick-off.

Fortunately, City's ground staff managed to save the nutty rodent from the Wolves by scooping the pitch invader up and releasing it away from the stadium after a few unsuccessful attempts.

Aguero missed out on the chance to become City's record scorer by netting his 178th goal.

But the Argentinian will have an opportunity again when Guardiola's side travel to West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Saturday.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'A whole new ball game for PEP'. Print Edition | Subscribe