Guardiola chases Champions League vindication

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola addresses press on the eve of the Champions League Group C match. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2019

Guardiola chases Champions League vindication

  • Guardiola has conquered English football spectacularly after winning the last two Premier League titles

LONDON: After a series of painful Champions League failures, Pep Guardiola is on a mission to seal his Manchester City legacy by finally getting his hands on the trophy again.

City start their latest bid to win the club’s first European Cup with a trip to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Group C opener on Wednesday.

The long flight to Ukraine will give Guardiola plenty of time to ponder his curious streak of Champions League flops in recent years.

Guardiola has conquered English football spectacularly after winning the last two Premier League titles, the first in record-breaking fashion and the second as part of an unprecedented domestic treble last season.

Yet the Champions League has proved impossible for Guardiola to master since he arrived at the Etihad Stadium.

In fact, Europe’s elite club competition has been a cruel mistress for Guardiola for most of the last decade, with a series of frustrating exits during his spells in charge of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City. Guardiola first won the Champions League as a manager in 2009 with Barcelona.

But he has failed to reach the semifinals in any of his three seasons as City boss, extending his long wait to win the tournament for the third time — his second triumph coming with Barca in 2011.

City’s best Champions League run was under Guardiola’s predecessor Manuel Pellegrini, who made the semifinals in the last season before the Spaniard took over.

And Guardiola’s inability to win the Champions League without Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi in his team is a black mark his critics use to question the 48-year-old’s right to be ranked as a managerial legend.

While that assessment is harsh on the innovative and inspirational Guardiola, his European campaigns with City have undoubtedly been painful experiences that exposed the few flaws in his team.

With five Champions League semifinal defeats on his CV —  two with Barca and three with Bayern — Guardiola has become the competition’s nearly-man since 2011, when his Messi-inspired team delivered a masterclass in the Wembley final against Manchester United.

That memorable evening stands as Guardiola’s last fond memory of the tournament and the clock is ticking on his hopes of winning it for the third time.

Worryingly for Guardiola’s hopes of lifting the famous ‘cup with the big ears’ in Istanbul later this season, City have endured a rocky start to the new Premier League season.

They are already five points behind leaders Liverpool after Saturday’s surprise 3-2 defeat at Norwich, a result that showed how badly City will miss injured centerback Aymeric Laporte.

At least City have what looks on paper a relatively undemanding group, with Atalanta and Dinamo Zagreb their other opponents.

Guardiola remains adamant his players will steer City back to calmer waters even without Laporte.

“If today you believe I have doubts in my team because we lost a game ...They gave me all the prestige I have in England,” he said after the Norwich game.

“In the first season it was ‘fraud Guardiola, Fraudiola’. OK, and how it was not possible to play this way because you have too many tackles.

“It was these players who gave me the prestige I have all round the world about how good a manager I am.”


India beats New Zealand in 2nd T20, leads 5-match series 2-0

Updated 26 January 2020

India beats New Zealand in 2nd T20, leads 5-match series 2-0

  • New Zealand struggled to achieve any real momentum
  • The match raised further questions about the coaching and captaincy of the New Zealand team

AUCKLAND, New Zealand: K.L. Rahul made an unbeaten 57 Sunday to steer India to a seven-wicket win over New Zealand in the second Twenty20 international and to a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
Rahul and Shreyas Iyer put on 86 for the third wicket as India cruised past New Zealand’s total of 132-5 with 2.3 overs to spare. Shivam Dube (13 not out) hit a six from the bowling of Tim Southeein in the 18th over to lift India to 135-3.
Iyer made 58 not out and Rahul 56 as India beat New Zealand by six wickets with an over to spare in the first match of the series.
New Zealand made 203-5 batting first in that match but on Sunday, on the same pitch, it struggled to achieve any real momentum. During the second match the pitch played much slower and India bowled expertly to restrict New Zealand’s total.
Martin Guptill made 33 in a 48-run opening partnership with Colin Munro and Tim Seifert made an unbeaten 33 at the end of the innings but New Zealand wasn’t able to reach a total that could stretch India’s deep batting lineup.
Rohit Sharma (8) and captain Virat Kohli (11) were out relatively cheaply but Rahul and Iyer (44) sped India toward a comprehensive victory.
Dube came to the crease shortly before the end and quickly brought the match to a conclusion.
“I think we backed up the first match with a very good performance today, especially with the ball,” Kohli said. “We demanded that the bowlers stood up and took control of what we wanted to do out there.
“I think our line and length and the way we wanted to bowl on that wicket, sticking to one side of the wicket and being shorter was a very good feature of us as a team and helped us restrict a very good New Zealand team.”
New Zealand’s total was inadequate, even on a slower pitch, and India almost toyed with the home side as it made its way to a comfortable win.
New Zealand named the same team that lost the first match of the series and batted after winning the toss, just as it batted when it was outplayed in the first match of the series.
The match raised further questions about the coaching and captaincy of the New Zealand team after its humiliating test series loss in Australia last month. New Zealand showed again Sunday it hasn’t the talent to compete with the best teams in the world.
“As a batting unit we probably needed another 15 or 20 to make that total more competitive,” said New Zealand captain Kane Williamson. “But credit to the way the India side bowled, they’re a class side in all departments and they put us under pressure throughout that middle period.”

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