Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola took a long time before meeting with the media following his side’s collapse in the second leg of a UEFA Champions League semifinal on Wednesday in Spain.
And time is what his side’s going to need to deal with the historic disintegration that was Rodrygo’s Thanos snap of two goals in under 90 seconds, a trick that led to Karim Benzema’s won and converted penalty in extra time of a 3-2 second leg, 6-5 aggregate win that sent Real to the final versus Liverpool.
Guardiola seems shellshocked by the way it all went down, and who could blame him? Riyad Mahrez’s second-half goal put Man City up 1-0 in the game and 5-3 on aggregate, a minute after Guardiola lifted Kevin De Bruyne for Ilkay Gundogan.
That substitution looked fine then but of course hindsight is 20/20 and Guardiola will be left lamenting what could’ve been after Rodrygo’s magic.
“We were close but we were in trouble when they put balls into the box, with so many crosses,” said Guardiola. “I had defeats in the Champions League, at Barcelona, and we could not reach the final, but there’s no doubt it’s hard for us. We can’t deny we were so close to the Champions League final. We didn’t play well in the first half but it’s normal in this competition.”
“We need time now,” Guardiola added. “We have to do it with our people. The players gave everything. We were so close. We couldn’t do it. In the history of football this happens. With the people supporting them it’s more difficult.”
Guardiola never felt like the Man City was in a lot of trouble until those fateful Rodrygo goals, and Thibaut Courtois’ eight-save day was as important as anything the 21-year-old brace scorer did for Real.
“We didn’t suffer much until they scored, but we didn’t play our best,” Guardiola said. “After [Mahrez’s] goal we controlled the game, Jack [Grealish] helped us control it. We could not finish when we were close.”
What impact does Guardiola think this will have on City?
Guardiola is confident that Real will be buzzing after the win but he’s not sure how City will react heading back to England for a Sunday match with Newcastle.
A trip to Wolves follows, and then City will visit West Ham before hosting Aston Villa. Win all four and City will win the Premier League yet again regardless of what Liverpool does in its final four Premier League matches.
“This will have a positive impact on the Real players. On us? I don’t know. They won, that’s it. We weren’t suffering all that much I don’t think.”
His repetition of the suffering line shows that he cannot quite fathom how Rodrygo, Courtois, and Carlo Ancelotti ripped a UCL final berth from their hands. Frankly, he’s not the only one. And there’s a couple dozen players whose reactions will determine a whole lot more.