City inspired by Pellegrini
Coach’s half-time team talk helps the Manchester club inflict a first loss of the season on Guardiola’s high-flying Bayern
ANCHESTER City’s manager Manuel Pellegrini, with his flagging side trailing 2-1 to Bayern Munich, gave his players a halftime pep talk that sparked a revival and kept their Champions League hopes alive.
After Sergio Aguero had put City in front with a penalty following the dismissal of Bayern defender Mehdi Benatia who brought him down, the German champions scored twice in five minutes through Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski.
But in the wake of Pellegrini’s words of wisdom, Argentine
MAguero scored two goals in the final five minutes of the match to complete a hat-trick and reignite City’s hopes of progressing to the knockout stage with a 3-2 win at the Etihad stadium. “My first thought at half-time was that we conceded two unbelievable goals and when you do that, it is very difficult to win,” Pellegrini told reporters. “But I told the players we had 45 minutes to score two goals, otherwise we were out.
“I said it was our last chance to stay in the Champions League and I told them not to allow their spirit to fall down.
“Another team may do that, but this team never does that. It is never beaten and it always does its all to win.”
“That is why the second half has double merit, because we beat Bayern Munich who played very well, but also because we did not fall down in this period.
“I don’t think this team are ever beaten.”
City are level on five points with CSKA Moscow and AS Roma in Group E, and if they win in Rome on December 10 and the Russians fail to beat Bayern, the Premier League champions will qualify for the last 16.
“I can assure you that this kind of victory gives a lot of trust to the whole squad, so it was very important at this moment to do it,” Pellegrini said.
“We will see what happens in the next round. I said last week if we have a mathematical chance to qualify then we will fight to the end and that is what we have been doing so far.
“It is important for us to do our duty and then we will see what happens in the other game.”
But Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said that Bayern’s first season defeat in all competitions may have a positive effect for upcoming tougher tasks in the knockout rounds.
“What’s happened today is good. Maybe it’s a good lesson for us, because if something like that happens in the round of 16 or the quarter-finals, you’re out,” Guardiola said.
Tuesday’s defeat was only Bayern’s eighth since Guardiola became coach in 2013, and their first since losing the German Super Cup against Borussia Dortmund.
But, resting players such as Mario and Thomas Mueller and fielding the less experienced Sebastian Rode and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Guardiola was satisfied overall with his team.
“I’m very, very proud of my team. We played for a very long time with 10 men against the English champions and we showed huge, huge character,” he said.
“We dominated possession, we didn’t allow them many chances and we controlled the game. But that’s the Champions League for you.”
Meanwhile, Schalke have even more homework to do after a 5-0 meltdown against Chelsea.
Schalke coach Roberto di Matteo, who guided Chelsea to their Champions League title in 2012, was on the other side of the emotional spectrum after the debacle against Chelsea.
“I would like to apologise to the supporters for the performance we put in tonight,” he said.
Di Matteo succeeded Jens Keller last month but is yet to make the team more stable as defender Dennis Aogo spoke of “an evening to forget.”
But Di Matteo remained defiant, saying: “We still have a chance to qualify. We need to win in Maribor and then hope that Sporting lose in London. We now need to do our homework.” – Reuters/Sapa-dpa