Perhaps it was the thrill of a comeback, but it seems a case of poor math from Manuel Pelligrini has played a role in Manchester City’s failure to win Group D in the group stage of the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League.
As it stands, City advances to the second round of the tournament as runners-up. Yet one more goal in their 3-2 Tuesday triumph against Bayern Munich would’ve given City an away goal advantage, 4-3, and shot them atop the group, into a savory seeded position for the knockout round.
Unfortunately, it appears no one told City; Pellegrini and game hero James Milner both gave comments that betrayed their understanding of the UCL group tiebreakers.
It began when Pellegrini was asked whether he wanted to make an attacking substitution late and gave a curious reply for a man who needed another goal.
“I was tempted if we scored the fourth goal – of course that’s why I sent (Sergio) Agüero to warm up,” said Pellegrini, whose side only needed one more goal, later adding, “It is very important to be first in the group but not the most important thing. It was difficult to score two goals and I think that Silva couldn’t play more than 70 minutes.”
If there were doubts as to whether Pellegrini was explaining his decision accurately, his game-winning goal scorer betrayed him.
“‘We didn’t know if 4-2 would be enough or if we would need 5-2,” Milner said. “We thought it needed to be 5-2 to be honest.”
Pellegrini ultimately did not insert Agüero, instead choosing to protect the 3-2 lead by removing striker Edin Dzeko in favor of midfielder Jack Rodwell with just two minutes to play.
Second place in the group means Manchester City will face a group winner in Round Two, though admittedly any team remaining is a massive challenge at this point. The harshest critics seem to be conveniently forgetting that inserting a striker wouldn’t have guaranteed a fourth goal.
There’s some embarrassment in a club not understanding tiebreakers, but the most important thing is that City are through with perhaps the mental edge of being a runner-up no group winner wants to draw.