Football: Pep pledges to fight fire with fire in second leg

Sergio Aguero dashing away to celebrate his goal to draw level at 2-2. He equalised again at 3-3 before City ran out winners, but the goals conceded laid bare their weaknesses.
Sergio Aguero dashing away to celebrate his goal to draw level at 2-2. He equalised again at 3-3 before City ran out winners, but the goals conceded laid bare their weaknesses.PHOTO: REUTERS

City bounce back to win amazing first leg 5-3 but Pep says defence alone won't do in return

LONDON • Pep Guardiola has pledged that Manchester City will continue to fight fire with fire when they take a 5-3 lead to Monaco in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

The City manager vowed to maintain his commitment to attack at Stade Louis II on March 15 after a breathless first leg against the France Ligue 1 leaders, who twice led and missed a penalty before conceding three goals in 11 minutes late in the game.

Even the Monaco coach, Leonardo Jardim, said he enjoyed the spectacle, if not the final result.

However, Monaco's goals exposed serious failings in the City rearguard, but although Guardiola acknowledged that his side must tighten up at the back, he said his focus will be on scoring goals.

"They will attack more and more and we have to defend better. But we will have our chances," said the Spaniard.

"We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. We are not going to defend that result.

"We now know each other better. We will adjust some things, they will adjust some things, but we have to score goals.

"If we don't score a goal in Monaco, we will be eliminated."

Raheem Sterling gave City a 26th-minute lead following a brilliant run from Leroy Sane, but a loose kick by home goalkeeper Willy Caballero enabled Monaco to level through Radamel Falcao's header.

A dawdling Nicolas Otamendi was at fault for Monaco's second goal, scored by Kylian Mbappe, and then conceded a penalty, only for Caballero to save Falcao's effort.

Sergio Aguero and Falcao swopped goals, the former benefiting from a huge error by Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, the latter scoring with a sublime chip, before City found an extra gear.

Aguero volleyed in David Silva's corner to make it 3-3 in the 71st minute and further goals from John Stones and Sane carried the City men to a dramatic victory.

Aguero was booked for diving after flinging himself over a challenge by Subasic in the first half, but Guardiola refused to discuss the incident, barking: "Next question, next question, next question."

Jardim said his team had paid for "defensive errors", but said the "key moment" had been Falcao's failure to convert his penalty early in the second half.

French striker Mbappe, 18, vindicated the coach's decision to hand him a first tournament start by calmly netting Monaco's second goal. Jardim hailed the teenager's display, but added that Monaco's defensive shortcomings showed the club's commitment to developing young players was a double-edged sword.

"I used Kylian up front today because we know City well. We know there's lots of space in behind," the Portuguese told his post-match press conference.

"I thought he played a great match. The little guy is 18 years old. And that's part of our project as well.

"But the defensive errors are also a question of age, maturity. Kylian is 18. Lots of the players are 20, 21, 22."

Monaco's performance confirmed their status as Europe's most prolific attacking team and gave Jardim hope they can turn the tie around in three weeks' time.

"I think playing here in England, scoring three goals at City, putting on a great show, is also an important moment," he said. "I congratulate the team. There are 90 minutes left at home. Nothing is finished."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2017, with the headline 'Score or 'we'll be out''. Print Edition | Subscribe