Manchester: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said his team would “stand up” and fight for the Premier League title after their dreams of a quadruple were ended by Wednesday’s dramatic exit from the Champions League to Tottenham Hotspur.
City went out on the away goals rule after their 4-3 win at the Etihad Stadium left the two legged quarter-final standing at 4-4 on aggregate.
Guardiola’s side thought a late goal from Raheem Sterling had earned them a place in the semi-finals but the effort was ruled out after a VAR review confirmed that Sergio Aguero was offside in the build-up.
“It is cruel but it is what it is and we have to accept it,” said Guardiola.
“After 20 minutes we were 3-2 up. In the second half we created a lot of chances and we scored the goals we needed. Unfortunately, it was a bad end for us so congratulations to Tottenham and good luck for the semi-finals,” said the Spaniard, whose team were also eliminated by English opponents, Liverpool, in the quarter-finals last season.
Guardiola said he continued to back the use of VAR, which also allowed Fernando Llorente’s decisive goal for Spurs despite suspicions of handball.
But he questioned the decision reached over Llorente’s goal - which officials concluded had rolled off the Spaniard’s hip and into the net in the wild encounter at the Etihad.
“I support VAR but maybe from one angle Fernando Llorente’s goal is handball, maybe from the referee’s angle it is not,” he said.
A packed stadium had roared City on in the second half with a thundering strike from Aguero 59th minute seeming to send Guardiola’s side on their way to the last four.
“I am so proud of the players and the fans,” said Guardiola.
“I have never heard noise like that since I have been in Manchester but football is unpredictable.”
City host Spurs again on Saturday in the Premier League as they battle with Liverpool for top spot having seen their dream of a quadruple end.
Having won the Carabao Cup (League Cup), City are in the FA Cup final and are two points behind Liverpool, with a game in hand, in the league.
“We have to stand up and react. It is a close (short amount of) time and the same team. We can’t think too much now. We have to try to sleep as much as possible and the day before the game we are going to prepare for the game,” he said.
“We have fought for nine or 10 months in the Premier League and still we are there. It is in our hands. Today is tough and tomorrow will be tough too but the day after we will be ready.”