MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - There was plenty to occupy Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola’s thoughts after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur — the VAR decision to over-rule an injury time ‘winner’ from Gabriel Jesus and a touchline row with striker Sergio Aguero, prominent among them.
But while the emotions of an incident-packed and controversial game were clearly still raw, the Spaniard had not forgotten just how well his City side had played.
With Kevin De Bruyne back to his best after injury limited his influence last season and with club record signing Rodri adding new steel at the back of the midfield, City were dominant for large stretches, playing Guardiola’s brand of football with real verve and remarkable precision.
There have been no shortage of outstanding displays in the past two title winning campaigns, but for the former Barcelona boss, this display was right up there with them.
“We played incredible. One of the best games we’ve played in our time together. The way we controlled right and left and created chances ... and Tottenham they want to press they could not do that,” he said.
“We play against Tottenham, one of the best in Europe, and it was an incredible performance. Unfortunately we cannot win. We lose two times against Tottenham because of VAR and last season it was offside and today it was hands. And that’s all.”
Ah, VAR, there is no avoiding the topic and when video officials ruled out Jesus’s late strike, after spotting the ball striking the arm of City’s Aymeric Laporte, Guardiola said he was feeling a sense of “deja vu” — last season his team were knocked out of the Champions League by Spurs after a late Raheem Sterling ‘goal’ was ruled out by VAR for offside.
“I thought we left that situation in Tottenham in the Champions League last season. But it is the same. The referee and VAR disallow it. It’s the second time - it’s tough. It’s honestly tough but it’s the way it is,” he said.
Guardiola largely side-stepped journalists’ questions about the incidents but could not resist some sarcasm suggesting one questioner “go to London and ask the big bosses”.
The Spaniard highlighted several decisions so far this season which he views as inconsistent and gave particular focus to a first half incident where he felt Rodri had been fouled inside the box.
“It’s a corner and (Erik) Lamela goes over Rodri, who goes down. But VAR in that moment was taking a coffee,” he said.
His counterpart, Maurico Pochettino, said he was sure that he would also end up on the wrong end of such decisions.
“We need to accept that (VAR). I was a little bit critical of VAR but now we have to accept the rules. Now it benefits us. No doubt it won’t benefit us at other times. It’s a rule we need to accept,” he said.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar