Manchester City left Pep Guardiola feeling “guilty” after his plea for more support from the club’s fans was followed by a frustrating 0-0 draw against Southampton on Saturday.
Guardiola had irritated a section of City’s fanbase by asking for more support after just 38,062 turned out at the Etihad Stadium for Wednesday’s 6-3 win over Leipzig in the Champions League.
That low number was partly due to the almost complete lack of Leipzig fans and the attendance was much closer to Etihad’s 55,000-capacity for Southampton’s visit.
Fans created a vibrant atmosphere after Guardiola’s rallying cry, even if the players didn’t rise to the occasion for once.
Despite the spat, Guardiola was greeted warmly by the near-capacity crowd, unsurprisingly given his record of sustained success at City.
And he conceded it was disappointing not to put on a goal-filled performance for the fans.
“Always when the game is not good I feel bad for them. They come to see a show, to see a game and when it doesn’t happen I feel a bit guilty because we didn’t play good,” Guardiola said.
Guardiola insisted on Friday he had not intended to question fans’ loyalty and he reiterated that stance.
“I didn’t say anything wrong after Leipzig. I said we had an incredibly tough game, had an incredibly tough game against Southampton and we would need the support of our fans,” he said.
“I never complained about how many come or don’t come. I have never thought this in my life. I don’t know why people are asking me this question. I am grateful even if 85 or 100 people come.”
It might have been even worse for Guardiola’s side after referee Jon Moss controversially overturned decisions to award Southampton a penalty and send City defender Kyle Walker off in the second half.
– City draw a blank –
City had scored 16 goals in their last three home games, but the champions’ usually potent attack was subdued by Southampton’s well-drilled defence.
Raheem Sterling thought he had snatched victory for City with a last-gasp strike but the flag was raised for offside and VAR confirmed the decision.
The result left City three points behind leaders Liverpool, with Manchester United and Chelsea able to go above them if they avoid defeat on Sunday.
“We were not good in our build-up. We lost simple balls in our process because we were not clever and a little bit sloppy,” Guardiola said.
“That is why I have to compliment Southampton. We move forward.”
City eventually began to assert a measure of control and Sterling played Ilkay Gundogan in on goal, but Saints keeper Alex McCarthy was quick to deal with the danger.
Controversy erupted when Southampton was awarded a penalty after Walker appeared to bundle into the back of Adam Armstrong.
Moss had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and was quick to show the red card to Walker.
But the referee was invited to review the whole incident again on the monitor following a VAR check.
Much to the relief of the City, he decided to cancel the penalty and overturn the sending off.
Guardiola responded to the let-off by introducing Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden off the bench in quick succession.
City thought they had found a way through when Sterling smashed home the rebound after McCarthy kept out Foden’s header, but Moss and VAR combined to send the fans to home frustrated.