Pep Guardiola launched a characteristically counterintuitive defence of his approach after half-time in Manchester City’s draw against RB Leipzig. City were held to a disappointing 1-1 score in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, but despite being dominated for long periods of the second half Guardiola refused to make a single substitution, and afterwards explained that he was wary of Leipzig’s danger on the counterattack.
“My expectations were not high,” he said. “I had the feeling that the tie would be decided in the second leg. It’s 180 minutes and I didn’t want to lose 4-0 or 4-3 here. We had four games in 10 days, we come here, and then the day after tomorrow we fly to Bournemouth. I put all this in perspective and I am so delighted for the game we played. It’s the Champions League. Such a demanding competition.”
“We don’t have the team to compete with them in the transitions. They are better than us, they are faster and quicker. In these situations German teams are better than us. We had to have a lot of control.” And as ever with Guardiola, there was a sarcastic barb aimed at his critics. “Maybe in the second leg,” he added, “I will decide to be crazy and play with nine strikers.”
Guardiola summoned his team into a huddle on the pitch after the game and later clarified that he was congratulating his players, not admonishing them. “Their heads were down,” he said. “[I asked them] Why are your heads down? That was really good. They played the game they should play.”
RB Leipzig’s manager Marco Rose, meanwhile, paid tribute to his side’s recovery. “We were not in Champions League mode in the first half,” he said. “Too little accuracy, too little activity, we lost too many first and second balls. It was a completely bad first half. The second half was very good. We are still there, we are still in the tie, and there are lots of things to take out of this game.”