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

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - REUTERS

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

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