Men's Team

Guardiola: Selection and schedule not to blame for semi-final loss

Guardiola: Selection and schedule not to blame for semi-final loss
Pep Guardiola says the selection changes enforced by Manchester City’s gruelling fixture schedule were not to blame for his side’s FA Cup semi-final defeat.

City suffered a 3-2 loss at Wembley Stadium, after Liverpool’s three-goal half-time lead proved too big a deficit for the Premier League leaders to overturn, despite Jack Grealish’s effort and Bernardo Silva’s late strike which set up a frantic finale.


Guardiola made seven changes for the cup clash, which came just three days after an intense Champions League quarter-final tie away to Atletico Madrid, during which Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker picked up knocks.

The Belgian was an unused substitute at Wembley, whilst Walker missed out completely, and, whilst Guardiola felt his side needed fresh legs, he did not feel the number of changes or tiredness was an issue against the Reds.

The boss says City were too passive in the first half, but was pleased with how his players reacted to take the game to the wire after the break.

“I have a lot of confidence in my players and the selection, I trust a lot of them,” he said at his post-match press conference.

“We had it terrible in terms of fixtures and travel and a lot of important games. That’s why we needed fresh legs.

“We started really well, especially with Jack and Joao and after conceded a goal from a set-piece. Liverpool are so strong and score many goals with these balls.

“The second was an accident which was tough. It’s tough to concede a goal in the last minute of the first half but the second half they showed incredible pride.

“When you talk about being tired, second half we didn’t look it, that means football is not about that, it’s about momentum.

“First half we were too passive and the second half we had the momentum. We had the most clear chances except at the end of course when everything was there on the counter attack.

“It’s tough to be here to try to compete, but the guys in the first half, against the opponent we play it’s always difficult to do it.

“We reacted marvellously, [with] the way we played and how we fought for every single ball. These games must be played in this way and at the end we were close to coming back.”

Ibrahima Konate headed Liverpool into an early lead, which was doubled after Zack Steffen’s hesitancy on his goalline allowed Sadio Mane to pounce.

It was a goal which punished City for trying to play out from the back in our trademark style, but Guardiola refused to blame the American, who he says deserved to keep his place in the side as the squad’s domestic cup ‘keeper.

“It’s an accident,” he added.

Ederson was close in the last game as well. It happens. We need that for our football.

“Of course, you should review if it happens often but the way we use our keeper and move them in different situations, I’d say the average of the way we create from there, this can happen.

“I’m pretty sure Zack didn’t want to do this. The strikers miss the chances in front of the keepers all the time.

“Zack deserved to play and he made good decisions and good saves after that. He’s an exceptional goalkeeper.”