Pep talk lacks zip

Mid­dles­brough make point against City

The Star (Kenya) - - Sports International - BY JOE BERNSTEIN /

All that talk of a Manch­ester City pro­ces­sion to the Premier League ti­tle has been ex­posed as laugh­ably pre­ma­ture.

Pep Guardi­ola has now seen his side held do­mes­ti­cally by Southamp­ton, Ev­er­ton and Mid­dles­brough in con­sec­u­tive home games fol­low­ing the shock of con­ced­ing Marten de Roon’s 92nd minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Mid­dles­brough.

City’s per­fect start – 10 wins out of 10 – fol­low­ing Pep’s ar­rival sud­denly seems a long time ago. And it’s not as if they can play Barcelona ev­ery week.

Mid­dles­brough goal­keeper Vic­tor Valdes was in in­spired form on his re­turn to Manch­ester where he spent an un­happy 18 months with United, mak­ing only two ap­pear­ances and fall­ing out with Louis van Gaal.

He made a string of saves, most no­tably a world-class one from David Silva, be­fore con­ced­ing to Aguero af­ter 43 min­utes.

City dom­i­nated with 71 per cent pos­ses­sion but couldn’t make the game safe, pay­ing the price a cou­ple of min­utes af­ter Ser­gio Aguero had de­parted to a stand­ing ova­tion, Ge­orge Friend cross­ing to the far post where Dutch­man de Roon had peeled off Gael Clichy to power in a header for his first Boro goal.

Guardi­ola was un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally grace­less af­ter­wards. Partly due to his un­der­stand­able dis­ap­point­ment and partly per­haps be­cause Boro’s man­ager Ai­tor Karanka used to be No2 to Guardi­ola’s neme­sis at Jose Mour­inho at Real Madrid and had claimed

“We played well, we cre­ated more than enough chances to win the game. They played with 10 play­ers in the box for 90 min­utes,” said Guardi­ola.

“If we had won 1-0. we would be talk­ing about a good per­for­mance. But when you ar­rive in the last min­utes just 1-0, any­thing can hap­pen. We are not good enough in the penalty area but we will im­prove.”

Asked to com­pli­ment Boro’s de­fen­sive steel, Guardi­ola snapped: “I am not here to talk about the per­for­mance of my op­po­nent. Their coach knows bet­ter than me the way they want to play. They scored with their only chance.”

Only when talk­ing about Aguero’s 150th did the City boss lighten up. “Big con­grat­u­la­tions. A huge mark, I only scored 11 in my ca­reer,” he smiled.City must have feared a post-Barcelona hang­over given the ef­fort.”

/REUTERS

Manch­ester City’s David Silva in ac­tion with Mid­dles­brough’s Adama Traore.

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