BRAVO GETS THUMBS UP

Guardi­ola hails keeper de­spite fans’ dis­plea­sure

New Straits Times - - Sport - MANCH­ESTER AFP

MANCH­ESTER City man­ager Pep Guardi­ola in­sisted he has no con­cerns about his goal­keeper Clau­dio Bravo de­spite the club’s sup­port­ers ap­pear­ing to show their dis­plea­sure at the ex­pe­ri­enced Chilean in­ter­na­tional dur­ing a 5-1 FA Cup win over Hud­der­s­field Town.

Bravo, who has been dis­placed by Willy Ca­ballero as first choice at the Eti­had, let an open­ing goal from Harry Bunn through his legs early in the fifth round re­play against the Cham­pi­onship side.

City sup­port­ers cheered sar­cas­ti­cally when Bravo made an un­con­vinc­ing save in the first half and, again, later in the match when he caught a rou­tine cross.

But Guardi­ola, who paid £15.4 mil­lion (RM84.7 mil­lion) for his ser­vices from Barcelona last sum­mer, in­sisted the per­for­mance from Bravo was up to stan­dard.

“You would have to ask the fans (about jeer­ing). The per­for­mance from Clau­dio was amaz­ing, to make the build-up, no­body else can do that,” said Guardi­ola.

“He reads when the men are free. It’s not easy to read that. He gave us the op­por­tu­nity to play. What the fans ex­press, I’m not here to judge them.

“I am not wor­ried about him, he’s strong enough. He’s one of the best. This year, he was named as one of the best five goal­keep­ers in the world.

“The peo­ple can­not imag­ine a goal­keeper is. But I know how the me­dia works. I’m de­lighted and so happy that he’s with us.

“I know I can count on him. I can count on his be­hav­iour when he’s play­ing and when he’s not play­ing. He’s al­ways in­volved in the team. I just con­grat­u­late him on how he played at Hud­der­s­field and how he played to­day.”

Bravo’s poor start was unim­por­tant in the end as City coasted into the FA Cup quar­ter-fi­nals where they will meet Mid­dles­brough.

Ser­gio Aguero scored twice, tak­ing his sea­son tally to 22 goals, and Leroy Sane, Pablo Za­baleta and Kelechi Iheana­cho were also on the mark for a City team that scored five for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive game, af­ter their thrilling 5-3 Champions League win over Monaco.

For Aguero, who had lost his place af­ter the bril­liant start made by the now-in­jured Gabriel Je­sus, the per­for­mance was par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive, ac­cord­ing to his man­ager.

“It was the best per­for­mance I have ever seen from Ser­gio in many, many things,” said Guardi­ola. “He was good with the ball, one against one, two against one. He didn’t lose the ball in the box.

“He scored two goals and made an­other one, cre­ated a lot of chances. When he plays at that level, Ser­gio, he is un­stop­pable. I’m so, so happy with the way to­day he played.

“I’m pretty sure he’s go­ing to help us keep go­ing un­til the end of the sea­son.”

How­ever, de­spite City hav­ing scored 10 goals in their last two games, Guardi­ola re­fused to com­pare City’s at­tack­ing ta­lent with his pre­vi­ous teams at Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich.

“No, come on, we are what we are,” he said. “So it is bet­ter for us not to com­pare with any­thing.

“But I think the team made a good per­for­mance. We are still in the process to grow but still we are far away from be­ing con­sis­tent and solid. Last game we score five goals and to­day five, so we are scor­ing a lot of goals, chances are ar­riv­ing, we are at­tack­ing, peo­ple en­joy the way we played and the peo­ple are happy.”

Hud­der­s­field man­ager David Wag­ner made nine changes for the re­play with an eye on a big pro­mo­tion game against Cham­pi­onship lead­ers New­cas­tle to­mor­row.

“We’re play­ing at home and that is our fortress,” said Wag­ner. “There will be a sold-out crowd, I’m to­tally sure our sup­port­ers will cre­ate a great at­mos­phere — maybe the best one ever — on Satur­day.

“So we have to make sure we are as fresh as we can be and try to make sure we com­pete bet­ter than to­day.”

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