Pep Guardiola hailed his ‘brilliant’ players but felt the Etihad Stadium groundsmen were the real heroes of Manchester City’s victory over West Ham United.
The hosts pulled off a 2-1 triumph thanks to goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho. Gundogan turned home a deflected Riyad Mahrez effort on 33 minutes. It looked as though that might be the only goal of the game.
But substitute Fernandinho bagged from the edge of the box in the 90th minute. There was still time for Manuel Lanzini to pull one back four minutes into stoppage time but it was the Citizens who claimed the points.
They now sit second in the top-flight standings, having moved back above Liverpool. The game was played in tough conditions as snow fell in Manchester.
And the Spanish tactician felt those who kept the game going should have picked up an award.
“In the first-half it was almost impossible to play. But we have an incredible groundskeeper. Thanks to them we could play,” he told BBC Sport.
“I think the groundskeepers, the guys who took care of the pitch, were the man of the match. They did an incredible job to make sure we played the game today.”
It was not City’s best performance of the season and there was a sense that the result was far more important. The Hammers are enjoying a solid campaign of their own and began the day only three points adrift of their opponents.
Sterling's purple patch a sign of him forcing a move
Sterling has been in top form recently. Could it have something to do with an impending move?
They remain in the top four despite back-to back defeats. Guardiola was missing a few stars from his starting line-up and paid tribute to those who made it through the blizzard.
“The players we have out – those that came in were brilliant, all of them,” he added. “And we cannot forget which opponent we played. They have everything.”
Guardiola coping without big names
Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and record signing Jack Grealish were absent for the third successive game. But City’s strength in depth was enough to get them across the line.
Once again Riyad Mahrez was outstanding. The Algeria international was superb against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League during the week.
His composure on the ball set him apart. And Guardiola felt passing the ball was key given the conditions.
“Both teams played in the same conditions. You have to adapt, don’t take a rest, more sure passes but no, in the same way,” he added.