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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Honesty Manchester City's policy after Uefa Champions League defeat to Lyon

Players introspect at the end of their 2-1 as they prepare for Premier League return at weekend

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero fails to score during their Uefa Champions League match against Lyon at the Etihad Stadium. AP Photo
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero fails to score during their Uefa Champions League match against Lyon at the Etihad Stadium. AP Photo

No points for the performance, but some for honesty, perhaps.

Manchester City prop up Group F in the Uefa Champions League after an opening-day upset against Lyon. There were no excuses from a commendably candid Fernandinho.

Unprompted, he raised the issue of his culpability in Lyon’s ultimately decisive second goal. The Brazilian gave the ball away and Nabil Fekir advanced to score.

“We had a first half to forget with some mistakes by myself,” the City midfielder said.

Lyon were 2-0 up at the interval. In Pep Guardiola’s reign, no visiting English side has scored twice in the first half at the Etihad Stadium.

Lyon emulated their Ligue 1 rivals Monaco in doing so. Fernandinho conceded City’s slow start was a surprise but delivered a warning that they cannot begin games as sloppily again.

“It is hard to explain,” he said. “I think we didn’t start well. We start waiting to see what happens.

Nabil Fekir of Lyon, left, took advantage of an error by Manchester City's Fernandinho in their Uefa Champions League game. Reuters
Nabil Fekir of Lyon, left, took advantage of an error by Manchester City's Fernandinho in their Uefa Champions League game. Reuters

"When we wake up, it was so late, we concede two goals and in that competition, we cannot win like this. We pay for that.”

City’s goalscorer Bernardo Silva felt they were too slow to put Lyon under pressure in their attempts to regain possession. “We didn’t press at the same intensity we usually do,” the Portuguese said.

Lyon’s former Manchester United defender Rafael da Silva said: “I don’t know if they underestimated us. Maybe they thought… we are not very good in Ligue 1, you know.”

Lyon belied a record showing only two wins in their first five games to excel in England.

Meanwhile, the Premier League champions refused to cite Guardiola’s absence from the dugout in mitigation. The manager, who was serving a one-match suspension, sat with his family in an executive box while his assistant Mikel Arteta took charge in the technical area and the dressing room.

Fernandinho conceded strong words were spoken in the City dressing room after the game, and not just by Arteta. “From the players as well,” he said, suggesting an inquest into what went wrong.

City had been billed by some as favourites to win the Champions League.

“We’re not favourites,” Bernardo Silva insisted bluntly, and they did not justify those predictions in their performance, though Fernandinho argued that qualification from the last 16 from a pool containing Shakhtar Donetsk and Hoffenheim always posed problems.

“My point of view is that it is a tough group, I never thought it was going to be easy,” he said. “We have to be humble now and go to Hoffenheim to try and win there and the other four games as well.”

Defender John Stones elaborated: “We put pressure on ourselves to go and win the next game.”

City’s next domestic game is at Cardiff on Saturday. “If you have to analyse the game, you have to take the positive points,” Fernandinho added.

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Leroy Sane's performance was one of the few positive takeaways from Manchester City's defeat to Lyon. AP Photo
Leroy Sane's performance was one of the few positive takeaways from Manchester City's defeat to Lyon. AP Photo

Foremost among them was the impact made by Leroy Sane. The substitute set up Silva’s goal with a slaloming solo run. Coupled with his fine display against Fulham on Saturday, the German appears to be returning to form, which should add both incision and raw speed.

Sergio Aguero, who almost equalised, also made a difference after his introduction. With Gabriel Jesus low on confidence, the Argentine ought to return to the starting 11 in Wales.

Given the robust approach of Neil Warnock’s sides, it would be no surprise if Guardiola turned to his most physical and sizeable centre-back, in Vincent Kompany.

One change is guaranteed, with Guardiola able to resume his duties on the touchline. But, as Fernandinho suggested, the bigger difference will come if City can start with intent and eliminate the errors that damaged them.