Football

Pep: It wasn’t a tactical mistake

Man City boss Pep Guardiola insists he did not get his strategy wrong after Champions League exit

Pep Guardiola's bold plan to attack backfired as Manchester City crashed out of the Champions League in Monaco yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Fearing his defence would not be able to prevent Monaco scoring as they sought to overturn a 5-3 first-leg deficit in the last-16 tie, Guardiola gambled on chasing more goals.

The outcome was a 3-1 loss (6-6 on aggregate) and defeat on away goals.

First-half strikes from teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe and Fabinho put the home side in control at the Stade Louis II.

Tiemoue Bakayoko scored the crucial third goal for the hosts after Leroy Sane's 71st-minute effort had swung the tie back in City's favour.

All three goals City conceded raised questions of City's defence, which contained only one specialist centre back in John Stones while, in front of them, only Fernandinho offered protection as the rest of the side was loaded with attackers.

Guardiola, however, refused to blame his tactics or his defence.

He said: "All managers make mistakes but I don't think it was down to a tactical mistake.

"The problem was the first half. We weren't there. We wanted to show personality, not to let them think, but they could pass and pass the ball. We forgot to do that in the first half.

"My mistake was being unable to convince them to do that. I did in the second half but it was too late."

Guardiola felt the forward players - Sane, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling with Sergio Aguero up front - should have offered more, even though City's lack of the ball in the first period gave them little opportunity to operate.

Guardiola said: "It's not about the defence. Our strikers have to be aggressive and pick the ball up, but we didn't, at this crucial time. That's why we are out.

"We have to play for more than 45 minutes. It's not about the defence and the goalkeeper."

The result actually meant that, for the first time, Guardiola has failed to take a side to at least the semi-finals.

Heralded as the best coach in the world, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss was recruited in the hope he could steer City to glory in the competition.

He said: "I came here to win the Champions League? I tried, I tried - and I will try again."

Following the loss, The Guardian newspaper reported that the Citizens are set for their biggest overhaul since the club was bought by Sheikh Mansour nine years ago.

Up to 18 players' futures are on the line, it said, as the owners are set to hand Guardiola at least £150 million (S$258.7m) to recruit new blood.

Among those facing uncertain times ahead are the seven whose contracts expire in July: Yaya Toure, Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta, Willy Caballero, Jesus Navas, Bacary Sagna and Tosin Adarabioyo.

Those players on loan, such as Joe Hart and Samir Nasri, are in real danger of being booted out for good, as are the likes of Aguero and Vincent Kompany.

Over in the Monaco camp, confidence is running high after the splendid turnaround.

Coach Leonardo Jardim hailed another fine showing against Premier League opposition after knocking out Arsenal in 2015 and twice beating Tottenham in this season's group stage.

The Portuguese said: "Today is one of my best moments as a coach but I hope it will not be the last.

"It is difficult to play against City and not concede but we are the best attacking side in the world and I told my players if they scored three goals they would qualify.

"They believed it and played really well." - WIRE SERVICES

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