Manchester City

Manchester City

Premier League • England

Guardiola knew exactly what ‘almost perfect’ Liverpool would do after paying Man City star ultimate compliment

Man City manager Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola insisted he never doubted the “almost perfect” Liverpool would take their title challenge to the last day after Man City were held by West Ham.

Man City roared back from two goals down, though a late missed penalty from Riyad Mahrez ensured they were made to settle for a point. The Hammers led 2-0 at the break after a brilliant Jarrod Bowen brace. The Qatar 2022 hopeful twice sprung City’s offside trap and finished clinically on both occasions.

Yet City are made of stern stuff and took less than three minutes to halve the deficit after the break.

Jack Grealish pulled one back before Vladimir Coufal headed into his own net with 20 minutes to play.

Man City pushed and thought they’d done enough to snatch all three points when Gabriel Jesus won a late penalty. Mahrez stepped up but saw his strike beaten away by Lukasz Fabianski.

With honours even in the capital, Liverpool now have renewed hope of overhauling Guardiola’s side. Two Reds wins against Southampton and Wolves, combined with a City draw on final day with Aston Villa would see Liverpool crowned champions.

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Speaking to Sky Sports after the match, Guardiola said: “It was a great comeback and it is an incredible credit to the team to do it against this team and with the way they defend.

“They are so good in the transition and I think we played a good game. We spoke at half-time about not giving up and if we scored one goal we’d be in the game.

“There is one more week, one more game, with our people – I assure it will be sold out and we’ll do the best performance possible to win the game and win the title.

“It would have been more perfect to win today but West Ham are fighting. It’s complicated and so difficult to play against them. It is in our hands.

“I don’t have the feeling that we played badly in the first half. We maybe didn’t create many chances but enough. They defended so deep but we created a really good performance.

“It will not be easy – there will be a lot of emotions. We’ll have to train hard and recover and we’ll do everything in that game to try and win the title.”

Guardiola on another missed penalty

On the subject of another missed penalty – something that has plagued Man City in Guardiola’s time at the club, the Spaniard added: “I don’t have the feeling about poor penalties – Riyad has been exceptional this season.

“You mean last season? I don’t know about 50 years ago. Next game Riyad is going to score.”

Jack Grealish hasn’t hit the heights many expected since his summer arrival for £100m. However, the ex-Villa talisman sparked the revival with his goal right after half-time and Guardiola described his second-half display as “perfect”.

“Jack Grealish’s goal was an incredible finish and that helped us a lot,” Guardiola later told the BBC. “He was more involved in the second half and he was perfect.”

On the title fight potentially going down to the final day, Guardiola concluded: “We couldn’t expect different with this Liverpool – they are almost the perfect team.

“We didn’t expect to win the title with three, four or five games to spare. We’ve both done an exceptional season.

“We won’t look at anyone else – we’ll just try and win our game. I’m pretty sure the Etihad Stadium will be full and they’ll be supporting us.”

All eyes will now be on Liverpool’s trip to Southampton on Tuesday night. Two Reds wins combined with a City draw against Aston Villa on final day would see Liverpool crowned champions.