MONACO: Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola vowed his team will not abandon their attacking DNA despite crashing out of the Champions League on Wednesday.
City led Monaco 5-3 after the first leg of their last-16 tie but the French Ligue 1 side hit back to win 3-1 in the return match to reach the quarter-finals on away goals.
Guardiola also admitted that he may have struggled to communicate his wishes to his players at Stade Louis II, especially in the first half when City quickly slipped 2-0 down.
“My philosophy has always been the same, that of attacking. In the first half, I was not able to convince my players to play in a certain way, to motivate them, to show more personality. I knew how to do it after the break,” said Guardiola.
“But the important thing is always to stay true to our DNA, to our style of play. We only did it in the second half.”
Teenage prodigy Kylian Mbappe and Brazilian midfielder Fabinho struck inside the opening half hour as Monaco wrested away control of the tie.
Leroy Sane pulled one back on 71 minutes as City regained the lead 6-5 on aggregate, but Tiemoue Bakayoko’s terrific header sent the Premier League side tumbling out of the competition.
“It’s how we were in the first 45 minutes, that is the only sad thing for me,” Guardiola told BT Sport after failing to reach the quarter-finals for the first time as a coach.
“You can play and the opponent can beat you but we were not there. At the right moment, you should be there but we were not.”
Despite their initial struggles City reemerged after the break looking far more threatening, but unlike in Manchester three weeks ago they failed to capitalise on their opportunities in the return clash.
“The way we played the first 45 minutes makes it so difficult, but we had the chances in the second half. We had the chances to score a lot of goals and we didn’t, that’s why we’re out,” said Guardiola.
– ‘We will learn’ –
“Normally we play all the time at a good level but at that moment (first half) we didn’t. But it happens and we’ll learn. We have a team with not a lot of experience in these types of competitions.”
While City trail leaders Chelsea by 10 points in the Premier League, Guardiola is still hoping to land silverware in his first season in England with his side drawn against Arsenal in the last four of the FA Cup.
“I think we’ll improve, we’re going to try to improve. At this level sometimes you have to be lucky in the special moments in these competitions. We weren’t so that’s why we will prepare for the Premier League, the FA Cup and next season.”
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim was delighted after his players rectified the costly mistakes they made in Manchester that threatened to undermine their European aspirations.
“After the first leg, I think after watching the match two or three times, the 5-3 scoreline wasn’t fair,” said Jardim.
“Because we messed up just a couple of small things and today that’s what I am talking about, the need to correct those small details.
“I think after two matches we deserve to have qualified. I’m very happy for all the supporters and for France that we’re going to continue to represent (the country).
“It’s the second time we’re into the quarter-finals, it’s a bit of recognition for our work, the players and the coach.”
Monaco goal hero Bakayoko said the French league leaders deserved to go through to the last eight.
“Over the two legs, I think we deserved to qualify as it didn’t happen by luck. We have to continue like this,” he said.
“There has been a lot of effort by the players but the staff as well. Today, we really had a 12th player. We all feel a lot of pride.”
Bakayoko was well-placed to take his goal, sneaking ahead of poor City marking to head in a free-kick 13 minutes from time.
“I took it well and placed it to the side of the keeper. It’s an immense joy to score in the Champions League. It was something that I never expected.”