The Manchester City manager defended his approach in the 3-1 loss and would not be drawn on the match officials
Pep Guardiola insisted his post-match greeting of referee Michael Oliver was not sarcastic as sought to avoid blaming the match officials for Manchester City’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.
City face a tall order to win a third consecutive Premier League title after goals from Fabinho, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino gave the Reds a resounding 3-1 win on Sunday.
Liverpool are eight points clear of Leicester City and Chelsea at the top of the table and nine better off than Guardiola’s City, who lie fourth.
City were aggrieved to see a handball claim against Trent Alexander-Arnold inside the Liverpool box go unpunished immediately before the counter-attack for Fabinho’s stunning opener, while further marginal penalty claims during the second half fell on deaf ears.
Raheem Sterling went down following an arm in the back from Sadio Mane before chipping the round ball into Alexander-Arnold’s hand.
After the full-time whistle, Guardiola was seen saying “thank you very much” to Oliver and his assistants in exaggerated fashion but looked to steer clear of any further controversy in his post-match news conference.
“It would not be nice [to take about the referee] after we lose,” City manager Guardiola said.
“Ask Mike Riley [general manager of English referees body PGMOL] and the big bosses about that, don’t ask to me.
“It was not sarcastic, it was, ‘thank you so much’. I said the same in the Tottenham game at home [when Gabriel Jesus had an injury-time winner ruled out after a VAR review].
“Most of the time when I go to the referees and my colleagues, always I say ‘thank you so much, good luck’. It’s uncomfortable for me because it looks like ‘ah, Pep complains’ – congratulations Liverpool, 3-1.
“I don’t know what happens in the future, if this or that happens in the game. We never know what happens in the future. But on the decisions, ask the big bosses. The guys who understand everything of that game.”
One factor culpable for the loss very much under Guardiola’s control has been the threadbare composition of City’s defence.
Long-serving captain Vincent Kompany left at the end of last season and the decision not to replace him with a specialist centre-back option has been compounded by Aymeric Laporte’s meniscus injury.
Holding midfielder Fernandinho again lined up in the heart of defence alongside John Stones at Anfield, whose own fitness struggles have run parallel to Nicolas Otamendi’s form dipping considerably.
Angelino made a second Premier League start, with the injury-ravaged Benjamin Mendy deemed unavailable by his manager. The left-back attacked promisingly throughout and hit the post, although he and Fernandinho were both arguably culpable for Salah’s 13th-minute goal from Andy Robertson’s searching cross.
“Mendy could not train yesterday due to some problems, so I decided for Angelino,” Guardiola said. “Mendy has been not injured, he goes to his national team now. We played so good.
“Of course we have a young soccer professional like Angelino, Fernandinho has been helping us playing that position, John Stones comes back after a long injury; their back four has been the same all the time but we have to move it for many reasons.”
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Nevertheless, Guardiola insisted he did not regret an expansive approach that saw his side have more shots, win more corners and enjoy the majority of possession against their victorious opponents.
“We decided to play the way we did because it’s the way we won two Premier Leagues in a row, seven titles in three seasons, and sometimes the people say ‘oh we like to watch Manchester City play football’,” he added.
“The teams who come here to play, they know how difficult it has been, the way we do it. Of course, we have to improve in the box and be more solid. Hopefully, we can improve in the future.”