Pep Guardiola rued the cruelty of VAR as Spurs ended Manchester City’s hopes of an unprecedented quadruple by eliminating them from the Champions League. The City manager was left to ponder what might have been after Fernando Llorente’s second-half goal stood after a review, while Raheem Sterling’s injury-time effort for the home side was ruled out.
While a buoyant Mauricio Pochettino said Spurs have the belief and class to become champions of Europe for the first time after knocking out City 4-4 on away goals, the substitute Llorente’s ultimately crucial goal went in via an elbow and hip, with the referee, Cuneyt Cakir, awarding the goal and VAR upholding his decision.
“I support VAR but maybe from one angle Fernando Llorente’s goal is handball, maybe from the referee’s angle it is not,” Guardiola said.
City won the second leg 4-3 but thought they had sealed a place in the semi-finals for only the second time when Sterling seemed to have completed a hat-trick in injury time.
The decision was overturned, with Sergio Agüero ruled offside before he picked out Sterling. “I am for fair football, for fair decisions,” Guardiola said. “The referees must be helped sometimes. When it is offside, it is offside. What can I say?”
Guardiola, who has long played down talk of winning all four trophies, reached at least the Champions League semi-final in each of his seven seasons in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich but he has been eliminated in the last 16 and twice in the quarter-finals in his time as City manager. “It was an incredible illusion for us to get to the semi-finals because this club only was there once,” he said. “It was an amazing night for us. Football is like this. It is unpredictable.”
Aymeric Laporte was at fault for Son Heung-min’s two goals and Guardiola lamented the defensive errors. “We make mistakes in that competition but were punished a lot,” he said. “We scored the goals that we needed. Unfortunately at the end it was a bad end for us.”
City mustered 20 shots and Sterling equalled his career-best tally of 23 goals in a season, Bernardo Silva added the third and Agüero reached 30 goals in a campaign for the fifth time in England. “Second half we did everything,” Guardiola said. “We created an incredible amount of chances today against a tough team. We reacted incredibly well. I am so proud, especially for the fans.”