COPENHAGEN: Pep Guardiola admitted Manchester City were “so tired” after his 10 men qualified for the Champions League last 16 with a 0-0 draw against FC Copenhagen on Tuesday.
Guardiola’s side had Rodri’s goal controversially disallowed by VAR before Sergio Gomez was dismissed for a professional foul at the Parken Stadium.
City forward Riyad Mahrez also missed a penalty prior to Gomez’s premature first half exit.
With Erling Haaland rested on the bench ahead of City’s trip to Liverpool on Sunday, the Premier League champions failed to score for the first time in 24 games in all competitions.
City had to be satisfied with avoiding defeat after playing with 10 men for an hour.
Guardiola’s men got their reward just hours later when they advanced to the knockout stages with two games to spare thanks to Borussia Dortmund’s 1-1 draw with against Sevilla in the other Group G fixture.
“To play one hour like that is tough. The players gave absolutely everything,” Guardiola said.
“It’s a good point and we will take it. I’m so satisfied. Tomorrow we will regenerate and then we have two days to prepare for Liverpool.”
It was notable that City lacked a cutting edge without Haaland, who has scored 20 goals in 12 competitive games since signing from Dortmund in the close-season.
Haaland scored twice in just 45 minutes during last week’s 5-0 drubbing of Copenhagen, but Guardiola might have expected his team to dominate the Danish minnows even without him.
Guardiola said he wanted to give Haaland a break because the striker showed signs of fatigue after Saturday’s win against Southampton.
“He finished the game against Southampton so, so tired and didn’t recover well. Yesterday was not good, today a little better but not perfect so we decide not to take the risk,” Guardiola said.
“I thought about energy levels. Many players didn’t start because they are really exhausted with fatigue and some niggles.
“Phil Foden has also some problems and Bernardo Silva was so tired yesterday, he told us. The players I played felt better.”
Julian Alvarez deputised for Haaland and the young Argentine wriggled into the Copenhagen area for a low strike that flashed just wide in the opening minutes.
Rodri thought he had given City the lead with a 25-yard rocket in the 11th minute.
But after a lengthy VAR check the midfielder’s goal was harshly disallowed for handball by Mahrez in the build-up.
Ederson had to tip over Lukas Lerager’s drive from just outside the area after City’s defence were caught out of position moments later.
After being denied by VAR, City could have benefitted from the system in the 24th minute, winning a penalty after a replay check of Nicolai Boilesen’s handball when he blocked Manuel Akanji’s header.
However, not for the first time in a City shirt, Mahrez was unable to convert the spot-kick as Kamil Grabara dived to his right to make a fine save.
Remarkably, VAR would intervene again after half an hour when City left-back Gomez was caught the wrong side of Hakon Haraldsson and hauled down the Copenhagen midfielder.
After play had continued for several seconds without a foul being given, referee Artur Dias went to the pitchside monitor and returned to show Gomez the red card.
City were the first team to miss a penalty and have a player sent off in the first half of a Champions League game since Arsenal against Bayern Munich in 2014.

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By Dipak

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