Guardiola blames his strikers as City bundled out of Europe

Spanish boss says his team paid the price for not taking the game to free-scoring Monaco as they exit Champions League

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City
Man City boss Pep Guardiola delivers instructions to his players
(Image credit: Michael Steele/Getty)

Monaco 3 Manchester City 1 [6-6 on aggregate, Monaco win on away goals]

Manchester City joined Arsenal and Tottenham in the Champions League exit lounge after suffering a painful 3-1 defeat in Monaco. In truth, however, it was the three away goals that City conceded in last month's first leg at the Etihad that put a serious dent in their chances of joining Leicester in tomorrow's quarter-final draw.

Despite their 5-3 victory in the first leg, City knew their advantage was slender against a Monaco side who are leading the French league and have scored 123 goals this season. It took them only eight minutes to add another one to their tally, Kylian Mbappe stabbing the ball into the visitors' net from close range.

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With the City defence increasingly troubled by Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko another goal looked likely and it duly came on the half hour mark when Fabinho drove the ball past Willy Caballero.

City, who barely mustered a shot on goal in the first half, were more potent after the break as they searched for the decisive goal, and they thought they had found it on 71 minutes when Leroy Sane pounced on the rebound after Danijel Subasic could only parry Raheem Sterling's low shot. But City's hopes were short-lived as once more they were undone by sloppy defending.

First Kevin De Bruyne conceded a free-kick on 77 minutes, and then poor marking from Thomas Lemar's delivery allowed Tiemoue Bakayoko to head home the killer third goal, Monaco's sixth of the tie.

It was a bitter blow for Pep Guardiola, whose brief on arriving at the Etihad in July, was to bring Champions League glory to Manchester in the way he had at Barcelona, where he won two titles.

But the defeat to Monaco marks the first time in the Spaniard's managerial career that he has gone out of the competition so early. "I came here to win the Champions League," he said. "I tried, I tried, and I will try again. Playing like we have done this season, like in the second half, would have been enough."

Asked to assess where the match had been lost, Guardiola said: "It's simple. The difference was between the first and the second half. In the second half we tried to win the game, we tried to play. I did it all my career in that way. But the problem was the first half. We weren't there."

The slow start surprised Guardiola, who in the lead up to the match had stressed to his players the importance of hitting the ground running. "I tried to convince them in all the meetings we had to come here, try to attack and score," he said. "My mistake was being not able to convince them to do that."

City's fragile defence has been a problem the whole season, and one that has cost them any chance of winning the league, but Guardiola pinpointed another reason for losing to Monaco. "It's not about the defence, today was not about that," he said. "Our strikers have to be aggressive and pick the ball up, but we didn't at this crucial time. That's why we are out."

For City's fan the result is another blow to their hopes of winning a tournament in which they've underperformed over the years. And the message from Guardiola was similar to the one uttered by his predecessors after their early exits.

"The competition is so demanding," he said. "Hopefully we are going to learn so that, next season, we can come back here and make the same performance we did at the Etihad for the whole 90 minutes."

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