Scheduling of Man City’s FA Cup semi-final win ‘unacceptable’ – Pep Guardiola

By Sports Desk April 20, 2024

Pep Guardiola admitted it was “unacceptable” that Manchester City’s 1-0 FA Cup semi-final win over Chelsea was scheduled for less than 72 hours after their Champions League defeat to Real Madrid.

City recovered from their European exit on Wednesday night – when they played extra-time against Real before losing on penalties – to edge past Mauricio Pochettino’s side, thanks to a goal in the 84th minute from Bernardo Silva, but they were clearly fatigued at Wembley.

Chelsea had more than enough chances to settle the semi-final in their favour but, as was the case on their last visit here against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final, wasteful finishing was their downfall, with Nicolas Jackson the primary culprit.

Yet despite seeing his side reach their third FA Cup final in six seasons, Guardiola’s thoughts were dominated by what he considered to be poor scheduling of the match by the Football Association.

“I don’t understand how we survived today,” he said. “People cannot imagine what a punch in the face to be out of the Champions League in the way we are out.

“Why not give us one more day to arrive on Sunday because Coventry and (Manchester) United didn’t play in midweek? For broadcasters?

“OK. Don’t ask me after to do extra (media duties) because we won’t do it. It’s unacceptable to play today.

“What (the players) have done today is one of the greatest things I have seen from a group of players – 120 minutes against Real, you can prepare absolutely nothing.

“Four hours to arrive here and play the game in these conditions. I don’t understand how we survived.”

Three times 22-year-old Jackson had gilt-edged chances to put his team through to the final but each time he was foiled, most glaringly when he headed straight at goalkeeper Stefan Ortega from close range midway through the second half.

Unable to capitalise on their openings, Chelsea tired as the game wore into its final 10 minutes and they were hit with the winning goal for City, six minutes from time.

Jeremy Doku slipped a pass through for Kevin De Bruyne bursting forward down the left of the penalty area and – after running it to the byline – he pulled the ball back centrally.

Djordje Petrovic got a foot to it but could not prevent it from reaching Silva, whose first-time effort at the back post pinged off Marc Cucurella as he dived in to block and span beyond the goalkeeper to win it.

City will play either Manchester United or Coventry in the final on May 25 as they look to retain the trophy they won last season.

Guardiola was pessimistic about the demands made on his players by an increasingly-congested schedule being lessened in the future and criticised what he considered an inflexible approach from competition organisers.

“In this country, they don’t change anything,” he said. “If I pretend it will change next season, it won’t happen. But don’t ask me to make meetings. I’m busy. I have to prepare games every three days.

“It’s unsustainable. We have to perform for the fans, for the prestige of the club. How? I just want to protect my players.

“I don’t have to run. I do this for the players. It is unacceptable.”

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino reflected on a game that, despite their chances, he felt his side had not done enough to win.

“The most important thing is to be clinical and not concede,” he said. “Even if today we competed well, I cannot say we were the better side.”

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