Pep Guardiola was a mixture of relief and cautious optimism after Phil Foden’s 90th-minute goal secured Manchester City a 2-1 first-leg win in their Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad Stadiumon Wednesday night.
“We felt the pressure, we didn’t know how we’d play,” conceded City’s manager in the wake of watching Kevin De Bruyne give his team an early lead only for Marco Reus to equalise in the 84th minute before Foden enjoyed the final word.
In the Premier League Guardiola is usually a stranger to self doubt but he admitted to feeling relieved. “It’s better to win than draw so, yeah, there’s relief,” he said. “In the first half we were not clever with the ball, or our passing. Today the build up was not good. It’s normal. The opponent is strong, with quality and pace up front.”
The jewel in Dortmund’s crown is Erling Haaland, a striker Guardiola is extremely keen on persuading City to spend well in excess of £100m on and it seems one of the assistant referees, Romania’s Sebastian Georghe, turned a little starstruck when he encountered the Norwegian in the tunnel after the final whistle, apparently asking Haaland for his autograph. Uefa may opt to investigate the incident.
Guardiola took a lighthearted view of the incident. “The players told me about it. Maybe he is a fan of Haaland,” he said.
Earlier Haaland and friends had done their best to frustrate his prospective new employers. “Borussia Dortmund are a typical Champions League team and it was difficult to do what we wanted to do,” said Guardiola. “But second half we were much better and we had two or three clear-cut chances to score. It’s a good result and we have a chance next week.
“We will watch the game again, we’ll analyse, we’ll adjust a few things and we’ll go there to win the game.”
At only 20, Phil Foden became the third youngest Englishman to score in the Champions League behind Alan Smith with Leeds in 2001 and Theo Walcott for Arsenal in 2009. “Second half he was a threat, he played really well,” said Guardiola of the England man. “He had two or three chances to score and finally he did.”
That late winner irked Reus. “We’re annoyed,” said Dortmund’s captain. “Conceding a second goal at the end was unnecessary. Two seconds of us switching off and they showed their quality. We had to stop the cross. Earlier we played with fire a little bit but City are very clever and lull you into a false sense of security.”
Edin Terzic, Dortmund’s interim manager, believes everything is still to play for in next Wednesday’s second leg. “It was even and we’re frustrated to lose but we’re not done yet,” he said. “It’s half-time and the tie is open.”