Manchester City’s spirit against Liverpool cannot be questioned, according to Pep Guardiola, whose team exited the FA Cup on Saturday.
City went down 3-2 in their semi-final clash with the Reds at Wembley, as Jurgen Klopp’s team took the bragging rights in this particular skirmish and progressed to their 15th FA Cup final, albeit their first since 2012.
Six days from a thrilling 2-2 draw between City and Liverpool in the Premier League, a much-changed team from Guardiola found themselves 3-0 down at half-time.
Ibrahima Konate put Liverpool ahead early on, and Sadio Mane strangely doubled their tally when City’s second-choice goalkeeper Zack Steffen made a blunder.
Mane’s challenge on Steffen diverted the ball into the back of the net, and the Liverpool forward got his second with a fine volley late in the first half.
Jack Grealish dragged City back into the contest, and Bernardo Silva’s goal set up some late tension, yet there would be no famous comeback.
Guardiola, though, could not fault the resolve of his team.
He told BBC Sport:
“Our momentum was there in the second half.
“We had the chances to equalise. It was a tricky fixture because we came from somewhere like only we know where we came from, with games we had and the last five or six days away and people with the problems.
“The guys put in a lot of pride in the second half.
“We gave everything after a tough first half. For the first goal, the set pieces are very, very strong.
“The second was an accident. It was difficult to come back, but they did it perfectly in the second half.”
Asked if his team were feeling fatigued after a tough run of fixtures, Guardiola said:
“It was not a question of tired. They were more tired in the first [half]. Football is not about tiredness. It is about what you do, how it works, and how you play.
“We finally have one or two days off. We know we have seven games and the Champions League. And we are going to try to push and see what happens.”
The city lost four of their last five matches at Wembley, including three FA Cup semi-finals in the previous three seasons.
While they conceded three goals in the first half of a match for the first time since April 2018, when they also did so against Liverpool in the Champions League.
Steffen had to hold his hands up for Liverpool’s second goal and arguably should have done better for their third.
The United States international’s error for Mane’s first effort was similar to a mistake made by team-mate Ederson in last week’s clash with Liverpool. However, the Brazilian got away with it on that occasion.
“It was an accident,” Guardiola said. “One of the strong points is trying to play [out], and as a goalkeeper, he has this quality.
“It was an accident, and he will learn for the future. But, when the ball is there, it can always happen. I have spoken with the team, not him personally, but he is strong.”
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