City in FA Cup final but Pep still insists quadruple not on

Gabriel Jesus' early goal for City was the only one against Brighton and it took his team to their 11th FA Cup final.
Gabriel Jesus' early goal for City was the only one against Brighton and it took his team to their 11th FA Cup final.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Pep Guardiola has once again sought to play down Manchester City's chances of winning the quadruple after their narrow 1-0 FA Cup semi-final victory over Brighton on Saturday.

Describing the unprecedented feat as highly unlikely, Gabriel Jesus' goal in the fourth minute was enough for City to set up a return visit to Wembley for the final on May 18.

They will be firm favourites to triumph and claim another piece of silverware, having won the League Cup in February.

Guardiola's men also remain in contention to retain the Premier League title and win the Champions League for the first time - with a quarter-final first leg against Tottenham to come tomorrow.

Should they prevail in the three competitions, they would become the first English club to achieve such a clean sweep.

But, after an unexpectedly subdued showing in what was City's 11th victory in 14 FA Cup semi-finals, and one in which they were somewhat fortunate not to lose Kyle Walker to a first-half red card for an apparent headbutt, Guardiola maintained his stance of not getting carried away with regard to what his team can achieve.

The Spaniard said post-game: "It is almost impossible to win the quadruple. Put it in the headline: almost impossible. Surviving in that stage of the competitions is already a miracle. And still we are there."

The 48-year-old was in somewhat tetchy mood after what was a 22nd victory in 23 games for his side, which could in part have been down to how City performed at Wembley.

Jesus' goal appeared the cue for a rout. Yet as was the case in the recent wins against Fulham and Cardiff, City retreated within themselves after taking an early lead.

They created only four shots on target in the entire game and found themselves under pressure from a spirited Brighton side in the second half.

It could also have been a different game had Walker been sent off in the first half following a scuffle with Brighton winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh. Both players were booked by referee Anthony Taylor before the defender's yellow card was looked at by the Video Assistant Referee with the possibility of it being upgraded.

After a short delay, the original decision was upheld despite replays showing Walker had thrust his head into that of the Iranian.

While Guardiola claimed to have not seen the incident, Chris Hughton was in no doubt the England right-back was lucky to remain on the field.

"In my opinion, it was a red card. There was sufficient force," said the Brighton manager. "We're at a stage where everybody is pushing for it (VAR). I've been converted, but I'm not sure how far it will take us."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2019, with the headline 'City in FA Cup final but Pep still insists quadruple not on'. Print Edition | Subscribe