Pep Guardiola said Manchester City will be eliminated from the Champions League if they fail to score in Monaco, despite holding a 5-3 lead from an extraordinary encounter at the Etihad Stadium.
The City manager vowed to maintain his commitment to attack at Stade Louis II on 15 March after a breathless first leg against the French league leaders, who twice led and missed a penalty before conceding three goals in 11 minutes late in the game. Even the Monaco coach, Leonardo Jardim, said he enjoyed the spectacle, if not the final result.
Guardiola described the contest as “beautiful” and an example of what can happen “when two teams want to be the protagonists” but also revealed mistrust of the City defense against the highest scoring team in Europe’s top divisions. After Nicolás Otamendi, John Stones and Willy Caballero endured a difficult night against Radamel Falcao and the eye-catching 18-year-old, Kylian Mbappé, the City manager admitted he could not send his team out to defend a 5-3 advantage in Monaco.
“We attack in small spaces and defend huge spaces behind, that’s why the people contracted me to come here,” Guardiola said. “It is special for football when two teams play like that. I am happier than my colleague from Monaco because at 2-0 [two goals behind] we are out. If one team can score a thousand million goals, it’s Monaco. They arrive with six or seven players in the box and it is tough to control that on the counterattack.
“Of course we have to improve. The first goal was a mistake, the second was a mistake but today the lesson is that we never give up. We were lucky in some aspects of the second half and very unlucky in some aspects of the first half. They will attack more and more and we have to defend better. But we will have our chances. We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. We are not going to defend that result. We now know each other better. We will adjust some things, they will adjust some things but we have to score goals. If we don’t score a goal in Monaco we will be eliminated.”
Guardiola refused to comment on the Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz’s decision to book Sergio Agüero for a perceived dive over Danijel Subasic in the first half when the Monaco goalkeeper made contact with the striker inside the area. “Next question, next question, next question,” he said. “I want to go to Monaco.”
Agüero, who scored twice and set up Leroy Sané’s fifth goal for City, commented: “He touched my foot but these are things that happen. The referee told me that he wasn’t going to give it. It happens and sometimes you can get it wrong but you have to accept it.” The Argentina international also reiterated his intention to remain at City beyond this season. “I’ve always said I want to be here at the club. I’ve always said that at the end of the season it won’t be my decision. The truth is that with these things it’s the club that handles everything and obviously it’s always my intention to stay.”
Hundreds of City fans missed kick‑off because of problems gaining entry to the stadium, accounting for the empty seats dotted around the ground at the start of the game. Guardiola’s squad flew to Abu Dhabi after the game for warm-weather training, with the manager adding: “I am satisfied it is 5-3 because we could be sat here out of the competition because the line was so fine. Now we will go to Abu Dhabi and rest for the Huddersfield game and Monaco.”