Slowing down Reds is key: Pep

Riyad Mahrez skies his 85th-minute penalty over Liverpool custodian Alisson's goal as Manchester City waste a gilt-edged chance to get their first win at Anfield since 2003. City manager Pep Guardiola admitted he had erred in plumping for Mahrez to t
Riyad Mahrez skies his 85th-minute penalty over Liverpool custodian Alisson's goal as Manchester City waste a gilt-edged chance to get their first win at Anfield since 2003. City manager Pep Guardiola admitted he had erred in plumping for Mahrez to take the spot kick instead of Gabriel Jesus.PHOTO: REUTERS

He says City have 'zero chance' of beating rivals in open game, rues Mahrez decision

LONDON • Pep Guardiola admitted that his plan for a slower tempo to nullify Liverpool worked to perfection as Manchester City were content to settle for a point in the goal-less draw at Anfield on Sunday.

Unlike the four enthralling encounters between the teams last season, when the Reds won three times, a highly anticipated clash fell flat with neither side managing to get a shot on target until after the hour mark.

"If it is an open game at Anfield, you don't even have a one per cent chance," said Guardiola.

"Up and down, they are the best team in the world. Running in these transitions there is no one better. They are built for that, Jurgen (Klopp) is built for that. In that situation, they are much better than us."

English champions City could have ended their wait for a first win at Anfield since 2003 - had Riyad Mahrez not blasted his 85th-minute penalty over the bar.

Guardiola took responsibility for placing his trust in the Algerian, who has now missed five of his last eight penalties, and apologised to Gabriel Jesus after turning down the Brazil forward's request to take the kick.

"I see him practise penalties every day and it gave me a lot of confidence," said Guardiola after he instructed Jesus, who had come on for regular penalty taker Sergio Aguero, to hand the ball to Mahrez.

"Jesus wanted to (take it). I apologise. It was my decision. We will try to do better."

Jesus was left incensed at the decision and later made his feelings known, saying: "Obviously I'm not happy. I was confident, so I was not happy that they did not allow me."

It was a relief for Klopp, who was pleased to see the back of a gruelling seven matches in 23 days, having also played Tottenham, Paris Saint-Germain, Southampton, Chelsea (twice) and Napoli since Sept 15.

His players may not be getting any reprieve heading into the international break, with the Liverpool boss branding the inaugural Uefa Nations League as "the most senseless competition in the world". It was introduced to replace friendlies with competitive games in a mini-group format.

He said: "The boys unfortunately go away again and have to play Nations League games, the most senseless competition in the world of football. I don't exactly know what you can win, but there is some final next summer or something so that's it."

He was in a far better mood when assessing the display against City.

"If somebody had told me after eight match days, you have 20 points, I would say with that fixture list, 'I'll buy it, let's start with the ninth match day'," he said.

"I am really happy with what the boys did. I thought how we defended was brilliant.

"We have played City often and they are outstanding. It was really intense and both showed respect for the other team."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2018, with the headline 'Slowing down Reds is key: Pep'. Print Edition | Subscribe