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Pep Guardiola complained that his players were “a bit sloppy”, but the Manchester City manager was happy to stamp a Champions League quarter-final spot.
The Spaniard saw his side Duke out a goalless draw with Sporting CP and secured an overall 5-0 victory after the victory in Lisbon three weeks ago.
City were searching for a goal to satisfy the full house at Etihad Stadium, but they could not get a breakthrough when Gabriel Jesus got a strike rejected due to offside after a VAR check and a late shower that turned into nothing.
Given City’s huge lead from the first game, there was always a likelihood that this would end in an anticlimax, but the hosts avoided at least one unpleasant night.
Guardiola said: “The first half was better than the second.
“I think after the rejected goal, we were a bit inactive, made no moves and it’s not easy, because after this result I think the second half was already over.
“We were waiting for a counterattack and it was a bit bad. But I understand that games in these situations are hard to handle.
“The first half was much better, we were more aggressive and created chances.
“We should have played the second half the way we played the last four or five minutes. We did not; therefore it was a bit sluggish in the second half.”
– Manchester City (@ManCity) March 9, 2022
City have now reached the last eight of the Champions League in each of the last five seasons, the only English team to have done so each time this season.
Guardiola made his Champions League debut for three players: starter CJ Egan-Riley and substitutes James McAtee and Luke Mbete.
Egan-Riley did well as a right-back, with Guardiola saying of the 19-year-old academy product: “CJ played as he is. He is not unique in anything, but he does not make mistakes and that is always as important as a defender. “
One of the night’s highlights for City supporters was a late game for veteran third-choice goalkeeper Scott Carson as the 36-year-old replaced Ederson in the final 17 minutes.
Carson, who rarely got a look at first-team level, had to make a big save to keep City on terms, which increased his cult hero status at the club.
He was his second appearance in the Champions League, 16 years and 338 days after his debut for Liverpool against Juventus in April 2005, when he was 19 years old. This made it the biggest gap between appearances in the history of the competition.
“We are happy. Scott is very important to us always behind the scenes,” Guardiola said of the former England international.
“His chemistry with Ederson and Zack [Steffen] is basic in the dressing room. People listen to him a lot when he speaks. For a match like this, it was so important and he made the biggest save, so we did not lose the match. “
Guardiola downplayed the prospect of possibly meeting a rival Premier League club in the quarter-finals, saying: “We will prepare well and next Friday we will see the draw and we will prepare.
“It’s an honor to be there. Important teams are already out, so we’ll see next week what happens.”