Guardiola 'happy' to look on bright side

Above: Basel's Michael Lang pumping his fist after scoring his side's winner against a weakened Manchester City. The impact of City's first defeat on their home turf this season was lightened by their 4-0 win in the first leg that meant the English t
City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, at full stretch, is unable to reach forward Mohamed Elyounoussi's first-half strike.PHOTOS: REUTERS
Above: Basel's Michael Lang pumping his fist after scoring his side's winner against a weakened Manchester City. The impact of City's first defeat on their home turf this season was lightened by their 4-0 win in the first leg that meant the English t
Basel's Michael Lang pumping his fist after scoring his side's winner against a weakened Manchester City. The impact of City's first defeat on their home turf this season was lightened by their 4-0 win in the first leg that meant the English team progressed 5-2 on aggregate.PHOTOS: REUTERS

He's pleased with City reaching quarter-finals for only the second time despite shock defeat

LONDON • Pep Guardiola chose to dwell on the positives of Manchester City reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for only the second time in the club's history, after he was given a reminder of what it feels like to lose at the Etihad Stadium.

City suffered their first home defeat after 15 months and 36 games - 2-1 by Swiss champions Basel, who came from behind in their last 16 tie on Wednesday to salvage some pride lost in the 4-0 first-leg rout.

But a shock elimination was never on the cards with City reaching the last eight 5-2 on aggregate.

"From tomorrow, we will be happy to be in the quarter-finals for the second time in this club's history. We are new in that position so we are so happy for that," Guardiola said.

City completed 978 passes, the most recorded by a side in a Champions League match since passing statistics started to be compiled in 2003. However, Guardiola had mixed feelings over his side's listless play and sterile possession.

He said: "Even the first half was quite good; in the second half, we forgot to attack, we forgot to play.

  • Dec 3, 2016

    Manchester City's last home defeat - 1-3 to Chelsea in the Premier League - before Wednesday's loss to Basel.

"Just to pass to pass for itself is nothing, so the second half was really, really poor."

Guardiola could afford the luxury of making six changes from Sunday's dominant 1-0 win over Chelsea, but still saw his side extend their aggregate advantage early on when Gabriel Jesus tapped home after just eight minutes.

However, Mohamed Elyounoussi exposed some slack defending to smash in an equaliser for the visitors nine minutes later before Michael Lang rocketed home a spectacular winner past Claudio Bravo 19 minutes from time.

"It's special for us to beat this team and we go out of the Champions League with a decent performance in a very difficult situation," said Basel coach Raphael Wicky.

City could have the Premier League mathematically wrapped up the next time they play in the Champions League early next month.

But they will need the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva to be well rested and in form if they are to progress in the Champions League with squad rotation failing to pay dividends on Wednesday.

"You will find all the clubs in the world when you make six or seven changes, always the team is not the same," added Guardiola, who reserved praise for 17-year-old Phil Foden, who became the youngest Englishman to start a Champions League knockout tie.

However, the coach hopes a three-week break following Monday's league trip to Stoke will leave his side refreshed for the last eight.

"I understand after we see the second half, the people that say the team is not ready to fight for everything. In 180 minutes, it is 5-2, so we are so happy to be in the next stage," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2018, with the headline 'Guardiola 'happy' to look on bright side'. Print Edition | Subscribe