“Merciless drama”: guardiola fails again

Pep guardiola sank to his knees. Unbelievable and disappointed, the star coach clasped his hands together over his head.

The most spectacular victory of the season was for manchester city in reality the bitterest defeat – also for the coach. Despite the 4:3 (3:2) against tottenham hotspur (first leg: 0:1) in the second leg of the champions league quarterfinals, the spanish player missed the preliminary round of the royal league for the third time in a row with the english soccer champions. "This is hard, this is cruel," lamented guardiola after the memorable evening, "but we have to accept this."

The british press already celebrated the breathtaking seven-goal smash as a classic. "Mad, barmy, brilliant," the telegraph headlined, BBC sport called it "a ruthless drama," and the times wrote: "spurs and VAR destroy city’s dream of four titles."

While the long chronically titleless spurs "love to silence their doubters" (BBC), guardiola has to put up with questions. As coach of FC barcelona, he won the cup twice, with FC bayern he came away empty-handed, and now, for the third time, he had to retire early with city. "It’s guardiola’s fault," the tabloid "mirror" said.

City fans had other culprits. The video assistant (VAR) was called into action in injury time. Raheem sterling had scored the alleged 5:3 for man city. The stadium shook, jubilant guardiola jumped into the air, while spurs coach mauricio pochettino froze. But the turkish referee cuneyt cakir had seen an offside position when the ball was passed shortly before, which was confirmed on video.

Cakir had already consulted the video assistant 20 minutes earlier when fernando llorente scored the game-winning goal to make it 3:4 because of what he thought was handball. The goal, however, paid – to the annoyance of guardiola, who did not agree with it. "I support VAR," he said. "But maybe from one angle the goal is a handball, maybe from the referee’s point of view it’s not."

Earlier, the premier league clubs had exchanged blows: early city lead through sterling (4. Minute), brace for spurs by heung-min son (7./10.), compensation bernardo silva (11.). When sterling (21.) also scored the 3:2, the stadium became a madhouse. "I am so proud of the players and the fans," said the dejected guardiola afterwards. "I have not heard such a noise since i have been in manchester. But fubball is unpredictable."

Tottenham then acted nervously and incorrectly. When sergio aguero (59.) scored the 4:2, city looked like a sure semifinalist. Then came the substitute llorente, who was actually only as a makeshift solution, and decided the duel for the spurs, who are now for the first time since the 1961/62 season semifinals of the most important european club competition. "An incredible game," said tottenham coach mauricio pochettino. "I am so happy, so proud. My players are heroes."The londoners will face ajax amsterdam in two weeks’ time.

In the worst case tottenham could become a stumbling block for man city even in the championship. The teams meet again in the league on saturday. "We have to show a reaction," demanded guardiola, who is two points behind leaders liverpool with city, but has played one game less. "We fought a lot for the premier league, nine or ten months. It’s in our hands now."Should city concede the next steamer on saturday, the club bosses in manchester could get pensive.