Pep Guardiola branded the ball used in Manchester City’s 4-1 penalty shootout win over Wolverhampton Wanderers as “unacceptable for a high-level competition” after his side survived a scare to progress to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals after extra time.
Claudio Bravo saved two Wolves penalties before Sergio Agüero scored the decisive spot-kick and while Guardiola was pleased with the victory, he expressed displeasure at the Mitre ball which is usually used in Football League matches. “It is not acceptable, the ball was unacceptable for a high-level competition,” Guardiola said. “It is too light, it moves all over the place, it is not a good ball. It is impossible to score with a ball like that and I can say that because we won, I’m not making excuses. All of my players said: ‘What is that?’ I’m sorry Carabao Cup is not a serious ball for a serious competition. It’s [for] marketing, money, OK but it’s not acceptable – [it has] no weight, nothing.”
Asked if his players had had time to practise with the ball that was introduced at the start of the season for all EFL competitions but not the Premier League, the 46-year-old was dismissive. “One day or two days, but the ball is bad for one year or two years, it’s not acceptable. All the players complain,” he added.
Of Bravo, who also made four crucial saves during the match, Guardiola said: “Claudio gave us the chance to go through, I’m so happy for him, the way he’s trained, a good performance and good penalties. I’m happy to win in this way.”
Bravo was signed in the summer of 2016 as Joe Hart’s replacement but lost his starting berth due to a series of high-profile mistakes. Guardiola accepted it has not been easy for the player. “Yes, of course,” he said. “It was not easy last season for him but he’s a keeper at a high level – you can’t be [the] Barcelona and Chile [goalkeeper] without being a high level. He deserved the performance. Without him we would not be in the next round.”
The manager added: “It’s not easy for him, like with Yaya [Touré, who also had a rare start], he wanted to touch the ball but it’s difficult because the space was tight. For Claudio he’s here to play but he’s a good professional and he has to be ready – you never know what happens in football. But it’s not easy to come in for games like this.”
Of the win, Guardiola said: “Maybe now people will understand why things are difficult in football – it’s so complicated in this competition. From tomorrow we have to focus again for the Premier League. In the first half we deserved to score one or two goals – we had chances in the first half but in the second half there were some counterattacks, they were so fast.”
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