Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola backs Erling Haaland after nine missed chances as Chelsea show real character

February 17, 2024

Pep Guardiola refused to blame Erling Haaland for missed chances after Manchester City were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Chelsea on Saturday Night Football.

The normally prolific Haaland spurned a number of opportunities, including one glaring free header from six yards out as the champions were held in a compelling Premier League contest at the Etihad Stadium.

It meant that Haaland, who has 16 league goals, broke the record for the highest xG (expected goals) in a Premier League game this season without scoring.

City ultimately needed an 83rd-minute equaliser from Rodri to rescue a point after their former forward Raheem Sterling had put the Londoners on course for an unexpected win with a 43rd-minute effort.

City manager Guardiola said: "It's good to have nine shots and next time he's going to score.

"I was a football player for 11 years and scored 11 goals. What stats! One goal a season. I'm not a proper man to give advice to strikers.

"We create the chances, he had the chances and next time he's going to score. I don't blame him. It's football, it's human beings."

Haaland looked frustrated at the end of the game and pushed away a TV camera but it has been a difficult week for the Norway international after the death of his grandmother.

Sturridge: Haaland has expectation of goals on his shoulders

Discussing Haaland's performance after the game, former Man City and Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge told Sky Sports Haaland himself would be his harshest critic after those misses.

"Of course, he's going to analyse his game when he goes home and say 'what could I have done better?' A player at his level, who goes onto the pitch with an expectation of scoring goals, he's going to be going home feeling down about himself, that he could have been the person who won the game for his team today," said Sturridge.

"But it's the life of a striker. You have these type of days where nothing goes right for you.

"You know your job is to provide the goals. Haaland has that weight on his shoulders. Although the goals are spread around he knows what he was brought here for and we know what his talent level is and his personal expectations are."

However, former City defender Micah Richards doesn't expect Saturday's display to affect Haaland's performances in the future, with the amount of missed chances evidence of how the striker is a continuous threat in the Premier League.

"I never worry about Haaland because his mentality is completely different to most strikers in world football," Richards told Sky Sports.

"He always gets an opportunity. He misses a lot of chances but he scores more often than not. If he wasn't getting these chances that's when I would be worried."

Guardiola: First half wasn't like us

The result left City four points off the top of the table in third place, after title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal won earlier in the day.

City dominated the second half but Guardiola felt they paid the price for a poor first-half display.

Guardiola said: "As a team and a group, the first half was not like we are.

"The demands are so high because no-one is going to give it to us, we have to do everything. We are Manchester City so we have to do it for ourselves all the time.

"We had to improve the first half and the second half was unbelievable, how we played and how we made transitions.

"In general, it was really good after we conceded from Raheem but when we play teams with composure and prestige of Chelsea you have to perform at your best for 95 minutes."

Pochettino: We need to live this type of game

Chelsea's season has been one of inconsistency but manager Mauricio Pochettino felt they showed their true character against strong opposition.

Pochettino said: "We tried to prepare, all the coaching staff, to make the plan for the game but football is always a game that belongs to the players and today the execution and the performance was from them. They showed character.

"It was a really important game for us to keep the momentum to realise we are in a good way and improving.

"Still we are not at the level of Manchester City but that is our aim.

"We need to live this type of game to improve and to create the spirit we need. We show in every single game we want to be competitive."

A blueprint to frustrate City?

Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher:

"I don't think Liverpool and Arsenal will now just copy Chelsea when they play City as they're really good teams but I don't think it's a secret how to play against them.

"It's just difficult to stop them as they're so good. It's always been a case of forcing the ball wide and make them cross.

"It's always been about getting numbers into the centre of the pitch, don't let them penetrate between the thirds.

"Chelsea had a bit of luck towards the end of the game with the chances Haaland missed. We saw the real City towards the end of the game with them getting to the byline and pulling the ball back which makes it so hard for defenders.

"The result gives Liverpool and Arsenal belief that this City team can drop points. I don't think it's the end of the world for Manchester City as there's so long to go.

"All three teams going for the title just need to get to that March international break and make sure they're still in a great position.

"Who knows when the run-in really starts? Some will say it's now, but it's March and April when it really hurts you a lot more [dropping points]."

Chelsea getting their act together?

Sky Sports' Adam Bate:

Guardiola had spoken of Chelsea's quality beforehand, describing them as "an exceptional team" but the suspicion was that this might be the familiar sound of the City boss praising opponents only for them to leave the Etihad Stadium on the end of a beating.

But Chelsea had their tactics spot on. They knew that City would have most of the possession but if they were able to keep their composure when under pressure and play that extra pass rather than just clear it, the openings would appear. They managed it time and again.

Palmer has that calmness, Gusto has the energy from deep. Jackson and Sterling have not always been as ruthless as they should have been this season - to say the least - and they missed chances in Manchester. But the goal was superb.

Pochettino will be just as pleased by the resilience shown. Conor Gallagher ran himself into the ground. Axel Disasi came up with block after block. Chelsea lost the lead late on. But they have found their spirit recently. That could be more important in the long run.

What's next?

Man City play again in the Premier League on Tuesday as they host Brentford; kick-off 7.30pm. They return to Sky Sports next Saturday as they travel to Bournemouth on Saturday Night Football; kick-off 5.30pm.

It is another huge game for Chelsea next weekend as they take on Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday February 25, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 3pm.

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