Guardiola says Man City’s Champions League win over Barcelona is key

By BBC/Shellmith

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says his side’s 3-1 Champions League victory over Barcelona is a landmark win for the club, but admits they did not do it playing the way he favours.

City had not beaten Barca in five previous attempts in Europe and Guardiola said after the Group C game on Tuesday: “It is a good step to say that once in our lives we played against the best team in the world and we beat them.

“We competed with Barcelona, but for now we did it in a different way. We played more long balls because we are still not ready to keep the ball and play like they do.

“They have been playing that way for 25 years. For us, it is three or four months that we have been trying to play in a different style.”

City staged a thrilling comeback after Lionel Messi’s 90th Champions League goal put the visitors 1-0 up in the first 20 minutes.

The win, courtesy of two goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin de Bruyne’s free-kick, leaves City second in the group behind Barca, needing one more win from their two remaining games to progress to the last 16.

Guardiola, who won the Champions League twice as Barca manager, had seen his side lose 4-0 at the Nou Camp last month in the reverse fixture after goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was sent off.

But the 45-year-old Spaniard said that when it was “11 v 11” in the first game, his side performed much better than for the 38 minutes on Tuesday night.

“They were 1-0 up and we were really in trouble. They had a chance to score their second and if they had, then the game was done – finished,” said Guardiola.

“Our equaliser changed absolutely everything for our mood. We also realised our build-up was too complicated, because they were playing a high-pressing game against us.

“We did not feel comfortable and we changed the way we played. We tried to play a little bit more direct.”

Guardiola, 45, took charge of City in the summer with the brief of conquering Europe and he feels that, psychologically, they have taken a big step in the right direction.

City progressed to the semi-final of the Champions League last season under previous manager Manuel Pellegrini.

“If you talk about the whole performance then, for the first 38 minutes, we were still not able to compete with the best clubs in the world,” said Guardiola.

“But, in the second half, it was different. I saw my players were upbeat – they knew they had gone through their bad moment. That sureness Barca had in the first half, we were able to turn that around.

“Now they will realise that they have beaten the best team. Future generations will see that and know they have to do that again. That is a process.

“It was the same with the group of players with Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany who won the title twice in five or six years together. The players arriving at the club now understand they have to do that, or try to do that too.”

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was full of praise for City’s pressing game, which forced several uncharacteristic errors from the Catalans, including the home side’s equaliser just before half-time.

“Until City’s first goal it had been one of the best 40 minutes we had played on a stage like this against a top quality rival,” Enrique said afterwards.

“From then on we had a bad time. We couldn’t control the game in the same way, because of the errors we made and also because of pressure from the opponents.

“City played very well and pressed aggressively to provoke more errors from us than we did from them, and they took advantage of them.”

BBC Radio 5 live pundit Ally McCoist:”The one thing that would be a tragedy would be if City don’t take the confidence from this.

“Manchester City were fantastic in the second half. It would not have been a shock to me had City scored again. They were in many ways playing Barcelona at their own game, which is a very dangerous thing to do.

“The confidence that the players and the manager should take from this performance is invaluable.”

  

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