EPL

Pep Guardiola backs Erling Haaland after missed chances in Chelsea draw

By Sports Desk February 17, 2024

Pep Guardiola refused to blame Erling Haaland for wasting chances after Manchester City were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Chelsea on Saturday.

The normally prolific Haaland spurned a number of opportunities, including one glaring free header from six yards out, as the champions were held in a compelling Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.

City ultimately needed an 83rd-minute equaliser from Rodri to rescue a point after their former forward Raheem Sterling had put the Londoners on course for an unexpected win with a 43rd-minute effort.

City manager Guardiola said: “It’s good to have nine shots and next time he’s going to score.

“I was a football player for 11 years and scored 11 goals. What stats! One goal a season. I’m not a proper man to give advice to strikers.

“We create the chances; he had the chances and next time he’s going to score. I don’t blame him. It’s football, it’s human beings.”

Haaland looked frustrated at the end of the game and pushed away a TV camera, but it has been a difficult week for the Norway international after the death of his grandmother.

The result left City four points off the top of the table in third place, after title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal won earlier in the day.

City dominated the second half, but Guardiola felt they paid the price for a poor first-half display.

Guardiola said: “As a team and a group, the first half was not like we are.

“The demands are so high because no-one is going to give it to us, we have to do everything. We are Man City, so we have to do it for ourselves all the time.

“We had to improve the first half and the second half was unbelievable, how we played and how we made transitions.

“In general, it was really good after we conceded from Raheem but when we play teams with composure and prestige of Chelsea you have to perform at your best for 95 minutes.”

Chelsea’s season has been one of inconsistency, but manager Mauricio Pochettino felt they showed their true character against strong opposition.

Pochettino said: “We tried to prepare, all the coaching staff, to make the plan for the game but football is always a game that belongs to the players and today the execution and the performance was from them. They showed character.

“It was a really important game for us to keep the momentum to realise we are in a good way and improving.

“Still we are not at the level of Man City but that is our aim.

“We need to live this type of game to improve and to create the spirit we need. We show in every single game we want to be competitive.”

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    The Portugal midfielder scored Manchester City’s late clincher as the holders ground out a hard-fought 1-0 win over Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday to book a return to the final.

    It came less than three days after he had badly fluffed his lines with a poor spot-kick as City were agonisingly knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid in a draining encounter on Wednesday.

    Silva released a lot of emotion in a vigorous celebration after his 84th-minute strike and he revealed that was culmination of a lot of factors.

    He said: “After a very frustrating week for all of us it’s good to get back on the winning side and qualify for another final and another chance to win a trophy. We’re happy.

    “Wednesday was a frustrating night for me. It was tough. First night, I didn’t sleep much. Second night, you sleep a bit better, the third night you sleep almost the whole night.

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    Silva – one of two City players to miss in the shootout loss along with Mateo Kovacic – was embarrassed as he chipped tamely into the hands of Real goalkeeper Andriy Lunin from the spot.

    He said that he had seen Lunin move early for the previous penalty, taken by Julian Alvarez, and felt striking down the middle would be a good idea.

    Silva said: “I was waiting, I wanted to be the second or the third penalty to see the reaction from the keeper in the first or the first two penalties.

    “And he moved early, that’s why I thought the middle was good because in moments of pressure the keepers, 99 per cent of the time, they move. But he chose not to move and fair play to him, well done.”

    Silva denied a theory that the delay to his penalty, caused by the ball needing to be retrieved from the crowd, had affected him mentally.

    He said: “For me, no. My decision was made. I was going shoot the penalty in the middle.”

    City showed the resolve of champions to hang in and edge out Chelsea, who dominated the tie at Wembley.

    The Londoners were left to rue wasting a host of chances, with misfiring striker Nicolas Jackson the prime culprit. They were also frustrated not to be awarded a penalty after a Cole Palmer free-kick struck the arm of Jack Grealish.

    Veteran defender Thiago Silva said: “I think it’s laughable. I don’t like to talk about the referees, especially after a defeat as it looks like an excuse, but I believe VAR could have sent the ref to the monitor.

    “If he goes to the monitor and decides not to give a pen, I’m fine with it, but go and see it.”

    Silva, 39, is out of contract at the end of the season and promised to reveal his future plans soon.

    The Brazilian said: “You are going to know in the coming days. I don’t want to say anything now after a defeat, I’m sad about the result, but sooner or later the news will come out.

    “I do have a decision made in my mind, but it’s not the moment to share it.”

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    Silva scored the late clincher as a weary-looking City ground out a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday to book a second-successive final appearance.

    Yet – after the game – manager Pep Guardiola hit out at the decision to make City play less than three days after they were taken to a penalty shootout in their draining Champions League quarter-final loss to Real Madrid.

    He contrasted this to the preparation time afforded to Sunday’s semi-finalists Manchester United and Coventry, neither of whom had midweek fixtures, and branded the situation “unacceptable”.

    Those sentiments were echoed by Silva, who felt City had been treated unfairly.

    The Portuguese said: “We didn’t play on a level field because the FA didn’t give us a chance to recover, which in my opinion is not reasonable at all.

    “I’m saying this because we won. If we didn’t win, I wouldn’t say it because I don’t like to find excuses, but I don’t think it’s acceptable we had to play (on Saturday).

    “It’s too much. We played 120 minutes less than three days (prior) and we had to play against a team that didn’t travel because they’re from London.

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    Silva feels there could be greater consideration given to the impact of European competitions on players when domestic fixtures are scheduled.

    He said: “I wasn’t fine at all. I’ll be honest, I was feeling my left hamstring and my right calf. This is not fair for Man City, for us.

    “I say Man City – maybe other clubs went through it. This is just our personal experience.

    “They have to pay more attention to these details. We represent England in these European competitions and it’s important for England, for this country, for other clubs to qualify for the Champions League, Europa League, Conference League. So they need to pay more attention.”

    The FA has not commented directly but its position on such matters is that the needs of the clubs, local authorities, police and broadcasters all need to be considered and balanced. It schedules all ties collaboratively.

    In this case, the matter is also complicated by Chelsea having a rearranged Premier League game against Arsenal next Tuesday.

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