City defend tactics after loss to Barca
MANCHESTER City assistant manager Ruben Cousillas has defended the decision to start with just one striker against Barcelona after a 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou sent the Spanish side through to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg and with manager Manuel Pellegrini serving a touchline ban, Cousillas was the man calling the shots from the sidelines with 10-man City chasing an unlikely victory.
The English Premier League club created chances, but they lacked a killer instinct in front of goal as strikes from Lionel Messi and Dani Alves gave the Spaniards a 4-1 aggregate victory.
The result meant that City, which won the English League Cup on March 2, bowed out of two competitions in the space of four days. They had exited the FA Cup over the weekend and their run in Europe ended on Wednesday.
There could be more bad news to come for City, who are fourth in the Premier League and trail leaders Chelsea by nine points, albeit with three games in hand. Their top scorer this season, Sergio Aguero, had to be replaced at half-time due to a hamstring strain. He was expected to undergo a scan yesterday to assess the damage.
"Of course, it was difficult with 10 men against such a powerful team but we'll go home happy with the performance of the team," Cousillas said, referring to Pablo Zabaleta's sending-off. "We have to keep working but we're happy with our squad and happy with our performance."
He added: "We usually play with two (strikers) but against Barca, with such good midfield players, we thought we needed to reinforce in midfield. But I don't think it would have changed the result.
"In the second half, we had three or four clear chances with just one striker... Sometimes you score and sometimes you don't. We tried, we had our chances and sometimes you can't convert them."
City defender Zabaleta claimed he did not know why he had been sent off. The Argentinian was dismissed for a second yellow card with the score at 1-0 with 12 minutes remaining after City had a strong penalty appeal waved away when Edin Dzeko appeared to have been felled by Gerard Pique.
"I don't know why he sent me off. It was a clear penalty and the referee was 2m away from the incident," Zabaleta said.
"There was a clear foul on Dzeko too in the build-up to Barca's first goal, which he gave as a free kick to Barcelona.
"In the heat of the moment I ran towards him, but I didn't show any lack of respect because I couldn't say anything, given that I was on a yellow card."
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino is hoping that beating a team of City's calibre will re-energise his team for the final two months of the season.
Barca have lost three of their last six games in the Primera Liga and now trail bitter rivals Real Madrid by four points in the title race.
"They (the games against City) were two very hard games and we won them both," said Martino. "It wasn't just about going through, but to do so in the manner we did. That could strengthen us for what is to come, but the (Spanish) league still depends on how we react."