Pep Guardiola refused to blame Sergio Agüero for his failed Panenka penalty as Manchester City missed the chance to be crowned champions following a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, though the manager admitted no one on City’s team expected the striker to try the technique.
City were leading 1-0 from a Raheem Sterling goal when Agüero tried the audacious chipped spot-kick just before the break, tamely floating the ball straight to Édouard Mendy, who did not move and so caught it with ease.
Second-half strikes from Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso sealed a Chelsea win that keeps City 13 points ahead of Manchester United, who travel to Aston Villa today.
Defeat for United against Villa will mean City are crowned champions. A draw for United would leave them 12 points behind City with four games to play and a far inferior goal difference. Yet if Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side win at Villa Park and then defeat Leicester on Tuesday and Liverpool on Thursday, the gap will be reduced to four points by the time City travel to Newcastle on Friday.
Guardiola was asked if Agüero was selfish to attempt the Panenka in such an important match. “Listen, he’s selfish because he missed it. If he scores a goal we say he’s a genius,” said the manager. “He took the decision – no-one expects it – but it’s right, the taker has to take responsibility.
“I always say to the players: ‘Take the decision and be convinced.’ He’s a sensible guy. We don’t have to talk about what Sergio did for the club.
“We don’t know what would have happened if he had scored – but we cannot deny 2-0 at half-time is different.”
Of the title Guardiola said: “We have another three chances matches to be champions, we have to learn from this and carry on. Now we have a final at Newcastle.”
Thomas Tuchel has now guided Chelsea to wins over City in the FA Cup and Premier League. Before Alonso’s late winner both Guardiola and Raheem Sterling believed the latter should have been awarded a penalty when Kurt Zouma challenged him.
Tuchel, however, waved away those claims and pointed to a potential red card for Sterling in the first half.
“I heard it was lucky for Raheem Sterling to be on the field then because of a huge foul on Timo Werner. There is no reason to talk about the referee.”
City play Chelsea in the Champions League final at the end of the month in Istanbul.
“These experiences, wins catch the momentum and increase our self confidence,” Tuchel said.