Pep Guardiola praised the attitude of his team after Manchester City opened the new year with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Everton.
Gabriel Jesus scored both goals in the space of seven second-half minutes at the Etihad Stadium but what could have been a comfortable win became tense after Claudio Bravo gifted Everton a reply.
City boss Guardiola was pleased that the Premier League champions, whose title defence looks over after falling well behind Liverpool, overcame fatigue to dig in to get a result in their third game in six days.
Asked how his team played, Guardiola said: “Really well. We played top. I’m so delighted about the performance and behaviour as always.
“Being far away from first position after being champions for the previous two seasons, teams in normal situations give up and can finish seventh or eighth in the table.
“Maybe we are going to finish seventh or eighth in the table but not because we don’t try. We played so good.”
Richarlison pulled one back for the visitors after Bravo turned an Everton forward in the box but then passed straight to another.
Guardiola did not condemn the goalkeeper, who had been handed an unexpected chance to start after Ederson fell ill.
Guardiola said: “It happens when you play in that way, but thanks to him we can make a build-up better and use long balls. It happened, it’s football, but always I encourage them to to do it.”
City had a Phil Foden goal disallowed by VAR in the first half. Riyad Mahrez was found to be offside in the build-up, much to the frustration of the home fans.
Guardiola, however, had no issues with the decision.
“I think it was offside,” he said. It’s not like other situations that have punished us this season. We continue playing even if a goal is disallowed and we did that.”
The City boss was in little doubt Dominic Calvert-Lewin should have been sent off for a poor challenge on Fernandinho, for which he was only booked, in the closing minutes.
“I think so,” he said, drawing a different response from his opposite number Carlo Ancelotti.
“Pep knows it was not a red card,” said the Italian. “It was a strong tackle but he went on the ball, so I think it was the right decision.”
Everton’s loss was their first since Ancelotti took charge just before Christmas.
The Italian said: “The first half was not good. We were too shy from the back, too slow.
“In the second part of the game we showed more intensity, scored a goal and tried to equalise. It was a good sign but we could do better than we did in the first half.”
Everton’s evening started on a frustrating note when Bernard was injured in a freak collision with Yerry Mina in the warm-up and had to pull out of the game with a gashed knee.
Ancelotti said: “It’s not too serious but we are going to check tomorrow. He had contact with Mina with a lot of pain. Hopefully we can recover him quickly.”
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