Pep Guardiola praises Bristol City after hard-fought first leg

The Manchester City boss hailed how the Championship club went to the Etihad Stadium "to try to play" as his side narrowly won 2-1 and took a step towards the Carabao Cup final.

Pep Guardiola praises Bristol City after hard-fought first leg
Credit: Victoria Haydn (Getty Images)

Pep Guardiola commended Bristol City's attitude towards the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final at the Etihad Stadium as they fell short against Manchester City late on to lose the match 2-1.

Bobby Reid built on his quarter-finals winner against the Citizens' rivals Manchester United by opening the scoring from the spot on 44 minutes after a clumsy John Stones sliding challenge, which gave the Championship side a shock lead at half-time.

The hosts rallied after the break though, and a 55th-minute equaliser from Kevin De Bruyne was followed up by substitute Sergio Agüero heading in the winning goal, two minutes into stoppage time.

The victory means Guardiola's side will visit Ashton Gate in two weeks time with a one-goal advantage as he looks to reach his first cup final since taking over at the helm.

Manchester City mental strength something to be proud of

Speaking to the media after full-time, Pep Guardiola gave credit to Bristol City for their inspired cup run, as well as praising his own team for the way they fought back from behind to win in yet another match.

"Nice game, beautiful game. All my credit to Bristol [City] because you can't knock out four teams from the Premier League without well-organised, nice players." 

"To watch, it's fantastic and I'm a lucky guy to train the players I have. In those moments, the game is more dangerous, so complicated, semi-finals are tough. Once we're down, how do we react in that situation?

"I don't know what's going to happen at the end of the season, if we're going to win or lose, it doesn't matter, but I give my respect to the professionals, the human beings."

The Spanish manager continued by stating how Manchester City fans all over the globe should be proud of his players for their mental strength, but understands the job isn't done yet.

"Every game they give every single thing they have, so I think our fans here in England and around the world have to be so proud. So proud because it's so complicated what they have done to mentally stay there [as winners] every day and we did it again.

"We knew, and spoke about today, that we were never going to finish our qualification and reach the final today, it's going to be in Bristol, so we'll focus on what we have to do in our next game.

"It'll be tough because we lived that [already] against Huddersfield [Town] last season when it was replayed and we lived it this season against Wolves here [at the Etihad Stadium].

"I can imagine if Cardiff [City] go through in the FA Cup we're going to go to Cardiff and it'll be so tough like today, but it's a good experience. It's a good experience for how we will overcome these situations, and in the Champions League, it'll be similar.

"You can't always play 180 minutes in control and dominate, but we've shown how we react in that situation and did it again [tonight] with the character, the personality, everybody you see who tries to go forward, not backwards.

"So, it's okay, we're going to try and play there and make a good game and reach the final."

 

Full of praise for Robins and manager Lee Johnson

Guardiola took time on the touchline after proceedings ended to have a long chat with the visitors' promising English manager Lee Johnson, and insisted that he had to congratulate the way he set up his side to attack the Premier League leaders.

"[I told him] big congratulations because he came here to try to play, no long balls, he tried to play because his attackers are good players and have good movement.

"They had the courage to play and that's why I think the game was really good for both sides, for the fans of Bristol [City], our fans and the neutral spectators.

"Both teams tried to play, they attacked, they created chances so it was a good game and [that's why] they are near the top of the Championship, I have a lot of respect for them."

The way that the Robins attacked his top-flight champions-elect right from the get-go, unlike some Premier League opposition this season, benefits every to do with football, according to Guardiola.

"It benefits football, the fans, everyone when the two teams go onto the pitch wanting to play, it's going to be a good match and when that happens it's up to us to find a way to surpass and find a way to beat the opponent.

"We've faced all kinds of teams this season, we've played against different ways but we've always found the formula to beat them, but the way they [Bristol City] came here is good for the show."

Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers held Manchester City to a 0-0 draw through to penalties, but eventually fell to a 4-1 shootout defeat.

Along with the problems fellow second-tier high-flyers Bristol City caused tonight, it was enough for the division to earn heaps of admiration from the Man City boss.

"Yeah, obviously [I'm impressed with the quality of lower league opposition]. The Championship is probably the hardest second division in the world because there's 44 matches and the play-offs afterwards, so I have a lot of respect for that competition.

"That's why there are lots of surprises in the cup when the Championship teams get through, in the same instance as in Spain where they play two games but here [in England] it's just one. Obviously, they are always complicated teams."

Despite the way his side had to crawl over the finish line tonight, Pep Guardiola was satisfied with his team's overall performance and persisted that the Citizens always look to put on a show.

"The performance was good. We always try to put on the best performance possible but, believe me, the performance today was good, really good."