Pep Guardiola refused to blame VAR for Manchester City’s exit from the Champions League at the hands of Lyon – there was a suggestion that Aymeric Laporte had been fouled in the buildup to the French side’s crucial second goal – but accepted that his team had not been at their best in the quarter-final in Lisbon.
“I don’t want to complain or look for excuses, we are out,” the City manager said. “For the first 25 minutes or so we struggled to find our rhythm, and though I had the feeling we were a lot better in the second half, in this competition you have to be perfect. We did create some chances in the second half but we also conceded two goals.
“We have to do better than that. We did some good things in the game but we made mistakes in both areas, and that’s why we lost. It’s disappointing, but now it’s time for holidays. We will keep trying, and one day I am sure we will be able to bridge this gap.”
Guardiola will have to endure some scrutiny after changing his formation. He went with a back three in order to match Lyon’s shape, and kept creative players such as Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo and David Silva on the bench until it was too late. City never looked their usual comfortable selves in this unfamiliar system and all three Lyon goals came from failing to operate a high defensive line adequately. “We were trying to cover our weak points,” Guardiola said by way of explanation. “We were nearly back in the game when it could have been 2-2 but then it went to 3-1 and we could not do anything. As I said, at this level of the game you have to be perfect.”
“Different year, same stuff,” was Kevin De Bruyne’s frank but scathing assessment. The crux of the match came five minutes from the end, when Raheem Sterling missed a glorious close-range chance to put City level before Lyon went straight up the field to score a third, after an untypical goalkeeping error from Ederson. When Lyon broke from halfway to score their second there was a question of offside, probably correctly ruled out by VAR, although when Laporte was impeded the referee had the whistle in his mouth before allowing play to continue. “I’m not going to blame VAR or the referee, we should have done better,” De Bruyne said. “We had them under pressure in the second half and if Raz scores that goal it’s 2-2 with everything to play for, but at 3-1 a minute later the game was over.
“The game was open, but we need to learn because on the night that wasn’t good enough. They didn’t create a lot of chances but they created enough, and obviously their third goal ended the game. It’s a shame to go out in this way but that wasn’t as good as we can play.
“We should have been more offensive, particularly in the first half. It’s been a long season, a difficult year, and now it’s time to go home.”