Pellegrini admits to goal difference error
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini miscalculated the goal difference that would have given his side top spot in Champions League Group D, after his side came from 2-0 down to pull off a heroic victory against Bayern Munich.
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Pellegrini’s decision to replace striker Edin Dzeko with midfielder Jack Rodwell in the closing stages of the game appeared to be a ploy to cling onto the 3-2 lead his side had established, as he opted not to go for the additional goal that would have given City the valuable top spot.
With Pellegrini admitting he would have been "tempted" to put star striker Sergio Aguero on for the closing stages if his side had scored a fourth goal at the Allianz Arena, it was evident that he believed a three-goal winning margin was required to seal top spot and yet just one more goal would have been enough.
“I was tempted if we scored the fourth goal [to make an attacking substitution] and that is why I sent Aguero to warm up,” Pellegrini said to Sky Sports, seemingly unaware that a 4-2 win would have been enough to seal a prized seeding in the last 16 of the Champions League.
“It is very important to be the first of the group, but not the most important thing. It was difficult to score two goals and [David] Silva could not play more than 70 minutes.”
Pellegrini’s comments were curious, yet they should not take away from a magnificent City display, as they fought back from a disastrous start to the game that saw Bayern storm into a 2-0 lead inside the first 12 minutes.
The City boss believes the battling performance should fuel his side with confidence, while also providing evidence that his team are not as far behind the best sides in Europe as many an observer had suggested.
“Someone said that this match was not important, that it was more important the game against Arsenal [in the Premier League on Saturday], but for our team, this was a very important game,” said Pellegrini.
“First of all, we want revenge for the game in Manchester, when we played very badly on that day. We want to show there is no big difference between Bayern and our team.
“Today, winning here, scoring three goals, without [Vincent] Kompany, without Yaya Toure, without Aguero, without Samir Nasri, that shows we have a very good squad. It is a very important victory.
“I have doubts about the Bayern Munich goal, at least one of them could be coming back from an off-side position, but we play very bad the first 15 minutes, we didn’t play.
“When we start playing, we start keeping the ball, the way this team knows how to do it, we played exactly the same as Bayern. The best way to do it [get confidence] is to score a goal. Then all the players have trust and they play better.
"I know we didn’t have good results in the Premier League playing away. We didn’t play bad in all those games, so we must continue to find a style of play and this match will be very important for us.”
Match-winner James Milner -- who became the first Englishman to score a Champions League goal for City -- also admitted that the players weren't sure what scoreline would have been enough to see them top the group.
"We knew roughly," he told reporters after the match. "We didn’t know if 4-2 would be enough or if we would need 5-2. We thought it needed to be 5-2 to be honest. We are slightly disappointed we did not finish top of the group but to be slightly disappointed at beating Bayern Munich on their own ground is pretty pleasing.
Milner also echoed the words of his manager, as he spoke of a revenge mission in Munich after City were humbled on home soil by Bayern earlier in the group.
“The aim was to come here, put in a good performance and we wanted a bit of revenge after the first game when we didn’t play well,” he said. “To come here and put in that kind of performance will give us confidence because we will come up against a top team now finishing second in the group.
“I think it says a lot about the dressing room, the players we have and the character we have. It was a terrible start from us, sloppy goals and it looked like they were going to run away with it.
“We didn’t start well at all, couldn’t get hold of the ball. The pitch wasn’t that easy, but it is the same for both sides and to come back against a side like that and win, it shows we need that kind of performance in the next round.
“It’s not easy when you first come into the Champions League, despite the experience we have in the squad. It was going to take time to find our feet, but to get out of the group was the first aim after the last two years and hopefully we can now go as far as we can.”