Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has praised the composure and mental strength of his team after it sealed a place in the Champions League semifinals after a goalless draw at Atletico Madrid that ended in a brawl in the tunnel.
Guardiola’s side had to dig deep in the face of some fierce pressure created by Atletico during a tense second half at the Wanda Metropolitano. Though players from both the teams got into a scuffle that resulted in a mass brawl and ended only after the intervention of local police, Guardiola was at pains to salute the discipline and mental fortitude of his side in the face of a determined challenge from Atletico.
“I am proud because the opponent was really good. We tried to take the ball but were not able. With the people and chances, they had they could have scored a goal.
“They pushed us a lot, they were excellent second half. We forgot to play and we were in big, big trouble. They had chances to score, the second half we had just one,” said Guardiola.
“This is the third time in our history we are in the semifinals and for our club that is an incredible achievement,” declared the City boss.
“Absolutely (I am pleased with our mental strength). We defended everything. But if they had scored in the last action would the mental strength not be there?” he said.
“In this stadium in this competition, it is always difficult. It is a big compliment to the players. We cannot expect every time to make everything marvellous. We have to suffer.
“I am proud because the opponent was really good. We tried to take the ball but were not able,” he added.
With Atletico trailing 0-1 from the first leg, Diego Simione resorted to some rough play and with German Daniel Siebert, who ignored several transgressions by the Madrid team.
Guardiola’s team was especially frustrated after Phil Foden was felled by Atletico’s Felipe on the sideline which got players and support staff from both teams to get involved and take a shy at each other.
The referee handed out a total of six yellow cards in extra time with City getting the majority of them (four) for wasting time.
Tempers further flared during the 13 added minutes as players kept on roughing each other up forcing the referee to break up fights each time, even walking up to the coaches, asking them to calm their bench down.
This continued in the tunnel after the match ended and things got so fierce and hot that the local police had to intervene and separate the players.