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Guardiola defends team selection as Crystal Palace claim surprise Etihad win

By December 22, 2018No Comments

Pep Guardiola defended his selection and refused to blame individuals after Manchester City suffered a shock loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The Premier League champions were stunned as the Eagles came from behind to win 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium and leave City trailing leaders Liverpool by four points at Christmas.

City manager Guardiola had opted to start with key pair Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne on the bench while John Stones played in midfield in the absence of Fernandinho.

Guardiola said: “Normally the selection, when you win I am a genius and when they win the selection is not good. I accept that role but I don’t know what would happen if Kevin or Sergio started.

“Dinho is injured. Yesterday he felt that problem but John played so good (in midfield) at Leicester and I want to give another option for the long balls. They are a strong team in the air.

“We decided to put him there and he played good, except one ball. I admire and give credit to people who try to adapt to positions they are not used to.”

City took the lead through Ilkay Gundogan but Palace hit back with a Jeffrey Schlupp strike and a goal of the season contender from Andros Townsend. City’s hopes of getting back into the game were dashed when Kyle Walker rashly fouled Max Meyer and Luka Milivojevic stuck home the resulting penalty.

Guardiola made clear he was not impressed with Walker’s challenge but did not criticise him publicly.

He said: “The third goal, the penalty, was really tough for us. We have to avoid it. We cannot concede this kind of penalty.

“But football makes good things, sometimes bad things. He will learn, we will learn about the situation for the knockout stages (of the Champions League) and important games, to improve on that.

“Here is not (just) what happened for Kyle, everybody is involved. We need the people in front to try and score goals, the people at the back to defend, everybody runs, everybody fights.

“I have few regrets. Just improve so in the future these kinds of things don’t happen.”

Palace boss Roy Hodgson hailed his side’s performance, saying the result was more than he could have hoped for.

He said: “Getting something from the game was always going to be a tough ask because they have such a strong team and such a good bench.

“We certainly didn’t come up here thinking we had no chance or this was the kind of game we had to write off.

“But what we did think was that unless we produce a performance of that quality, discipline and workrate then we wouldn’t have much of a chance.

“Luckily today the goals fell for us. After going 1-0 down we were able to score two good goals and that gives you something to cling on to and makes life harder for the opposition.”

Townsend felt his strike, a ferocious 30-yard volley, was the best of his career.

The winger told the BBC: “It sat up perfectly for me. I knew I couldn’t take a touch as City would have been on me and on the counter, and as soon as it left my foot I knew it had a good chance.

“It’s definitely the best goal of my career, against the best side I’ve ever played.”