Big Match

Over to you, Liverpool

Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola admitted his relief that "the title is still in our hands as we could have lost the Premier League today".
Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola admitted his relief that "the title is still in our hands as we could have lost the Premier League today".PHOTO: REUTERS

Guardiola relieved with win, says City will fight till the end with 'the best' Reds team ever

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City 1

Tottenham Hotspur 0

LONDON • Revenge might not be exactly the right word, given that the European dimension of Manchester City's quadruple attempt was probably the one that mattered most to them.

But Pep Guardiola will have been satisfied with the reaction his players showed after the draining events of last Wednesday evening, which saw them exit the Champions League, with Spurs prevailing on away goals despite a 4-3 defeat.

The City manager had confessed he had no idea how his side may be affected by such a cruel late setback, with Raheem Sterling thinking he had scored the winner only to see his goal chalked off by the video assistant referee.

However, they gave one of their more solid performances of the season to take three points from a gutsy and resolute Spurs team to move back to the top of the Premier League table yesterday.

Guardiola admitted his relief that "the title is still in our hands as we could have lost the Premier League today".

He told BBC Sport: "It was a real tough game after our mental defeat on Wednesday. The last two days have been really tough for us."

This was not City at their fluent, most incisive best, but Liverpool and Manchester United will still have been impressed after their 10th league win in a row - the best run by any team this season.

As their nearest challengers for the title, Jurgen Klopp's Reds are well aware of the difficulty of grinding out results against stubborn opponents at this stage of the season.

And United, who host City next on Wednesday, will find it challenging to defend for 90 minutes as well as Spurs did after Phil Foden's fifth-minute opener.

Realistically, the third meeting of these sides within a fortnight was never going to live up to the breathless excitement of midweek, but both teams deserve credit for producing professional performances after their exertions in Europe.

The only drawback from City's point of view was the sight of Kevin de Bruyne limping off before the break, though they have prospered without the influential Belgium midfielder for much of the term and appear equipped to do so again.

Bernardo Silva is one of the less celebrated names on the six-man shortlist released yesterday for the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award, the others being teammates Sterling and Sergio Aguero, the Liverpool duo of Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk, and Chelsea's Eden Hazard.

The Portugal midfielder, however, was instrumental in creating the only goal, cutting in from the right to pick out Aguero at the far post, who nodded the ball back across the goal, where Foden's reward for following up assiduously was his maiden strike in the league.

The early breakthrough raised hopes that the game might be an end-to-end goal-fest to resemble the epic match three days earlier.

Yet the rest of the game was relatively muted, with the home side comfortably in control for the most part, without finding their cutting edge.

Spurs were reduced to sending long balls in the direction of South Korean forward Son Heung-min.

Guardiola, calling the Reds "one of the best teams I've seen in my whole life", added: "We are fighting with the best Liverpool ever.

"If we win (the title), we'll be so happy. Even if we don't do it, we've been on a remarkable run. Every day with this club and these players. It doesn't matter what happens next. We'll fight until the end - we'll see how far we get."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 21, 2019, with the headline 'Over to you, Liverpool'. Print Edition | Subscribe