Pep Guardiola dismissed suggestions that he did not pay enough attention to the FA Cup after Manchester City’s hopes of winning an unprecedented quadruple of trophies were ended by Chelsea.
Hakim Ziyech’s second-half goal was enough to take his club to a fourth final in the past five years as City failed to score for only the fifth time this season. Guardiola made eight changes from the side that defeated Borussia Dortmund in midweek to reach the Champions League semi-finals and saw his side struggle to create any real opportunities to equalise after falling behind, despite the best efforts of the substitute Phil Foden.
The former City defender Micah Richards was among those pundits to question the manager’s decision to rotate his squad for such a crucial game but Guardiola refused to accept that he had made a mistake.
“What can I say? When you have two and half days to recover and you play away and you have to travel on the train for three hours,” he said. “But don’t say we don’t pay attention. A team that arrives in the final stages of this competition couldn’t say that. This team won four Carabao Cups so just say we lost the game. But it’s a poor argument. You wouldn’t get to semi-finals of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup if we’re not paying attention. We always play to win and congratulations to Chelsea.”
Guardiola added: “These guys in 10 months have fought in every game like never I’ve seen before. We lose a game against a top side and now we don’t pay attention. We respect a lot the FA Cup.”
Ziyech’s winning goal came 10 minutes after Kevin De Bruyne limped off after appearing to turn his right ankle at the start of the second half and Guardiola admitted the Belgian is a major doubt for the Premier League trip to Aston Villa on Wednesday and Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Tottenham back at Wembley. “It doesn’t look good. He has pain. Tomorrow we will see. He will have a test with doctors.”
Thomas Tuchel recorded his first victory over Guardiola at the sixth attempt and Chelsea now have an opportunity to make up for their defeat by Arsenal in last year’s final against the winners of Sunday’s semi-final between Leicester and Southampton.
He said: “We wanted to enjoy the extra competition that we had – we are in the Champions League semi-final and the race for the top four so we said: ‘OK, let’s take this opportunity to show up on the highest level and see where we are.’ And they did.
“Everybody who is on the pitch needs to perform – now is the moment in the season when we can’t drop 1% and that’s the way we want it.”
It was Chelsea’s 14th clean sheet in 19 matches since Tuchel succeeded Frank Lampard in January. “We worked hard for it,” he said. “You can feel the bond and the solidarity. The guys are ready to cover for each other if anyone loses a duel. We wanted to be brave today with the ball and against the ball and we did it.”