‘Better team won’, admits Guardiola as sluggish City are dumped out of League Cup
SOUTHAMPTON, England - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gave a scathing assessment of his side’s performance after they exited the League Cup in a dismal 2-0 defeat by Southampton on Wednesday.
The competition has long been a domain dominated by City, who have won the Cup on six occasions since 2014, but for the second time in as many seasons, they were knocked out before the semi-finals.
For only the third time in Guardiola’s tenure as City boss, and the first time since 2018, his side did not even manage a shot on target.
“That’s the reason why we were not good,” he told Sky Sports when asked about that statistic.
Southampton struck twice before the half-hour mark and defended well to limit City’s opportunities going forward despite only having 28 per cent of possession.
Guardiola was forthright in his analysis of his side’s performance, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “The better team won. We didn’t play good, we didn’t play well in the beginning. There are many games you can start not good and overcome and we didn’t do it.
“When you are not prepared to play this game, you arrive one inch late and don’t score a goal. When you are prepared, you score the goal.
“Today was a bad night, the opponents were better so we have to congratulate them. To win games, you have to deserve it and tonight we didn’t deserve it.”
Guardiola had named a strong side with Joao Cancelo, Jack Grealish, Ilkay Gundogan and Kalvin Phillips among the starters, yet apart from an early shot dragged wide by midfielder Gundogan, they made little impression on the game.
Guardiola’s sentiments were echoed by Gundogan, who was disappointed with his side’s performance.
“It’s definitely not what we wanted,” the German told Sky Sports. “We had hopes of going through in the League Cup but with that (performance), there was no chance. It was not enough from us.
“With the ball, we made a lot of mistakes, missed a lot of passes, gave them the ball too easily and that resulted in the two goals.
“Today we were not good enough to create chances, not good enough to score a goal. The mix of the performance from all the team gives this result.”
City will need to improve on Saturday for their next game, a Premier League derby away to neighbours Manchester United, who have won all of their last eight competitive games.
Southampton, bottom of the Premier League table, scored twice in the first half through Sekou Mara and Moussa Djenepo and City never seriously threatened to get back into the match.
Mara scored his first goal for Southampton in the 23rd minute as he connected well with a whipped cross by Lyanco and the hosts doubled the lead five minutes later when Djenepo spotted City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega off of his line and curled a stunning effort into the top corner.
Even the second-half introduction of substitutes Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland failed to spark a revival for Guardiola’s side.
Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse told Sky Sports that his side played without fear and praised new manager Nathan Jones.
“(It is) a special night. These games are special to play in especially when you’re struggling in the league. We knew this was a distraction from the league and a great showcase. We showed no fear.
“It’s always tough when you’re in the position we are. The manager has been excellent and has given us fresh ideas and new energy. He wanted us to be bold and aggressive.
“We have been guilty in the past of having a result at half-time and dropping off. We showed a different part of our game. We thoroughly deserved the win.”
City came into the game off the back of a 4-0 demolition of Chelsea in the FA Cup on Sunday but failed to replicate the free-scoring form.
It was Grealish who had made the error which led to the hosts’ opening goal, giving away possession to Lycano who raced up the wing before providing the cross for Mara.
Jones has failed to halt Southampton’s poor Premier League form since taking over in November, but has won all three of his team’s games in cup competitions - against Lincoln City, Crystal Palace and now City.
Next up for the Saints will be Newcastle, who beat Leicester 2-0 on Tuesday.
Manchester United will face Nottingham Forest in the other semi-final.
The semi-finals will take place in the weeks commencing Jan 23 and Jan 30. - REUTERS
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now