Guardiola ‘not the man’ to tell Haaland how to score

Erling Haaland looking frustrated

Even the very best strikers occasionally have a day to forget, as Erling Haaland found in his side’s draw against Chelsea on Saturday.

The Premier League’s top scorer had nine shots without scoring, his most in a single game without getting a goal in any of his 79 appearances for Manchester City.

They were good chances too, especially the cross that Kevin de Bruyne put on a plate for the Norwegian with the hosts trailing 1-0 late on. Haaland was right in front of goal when he met it, but the ball flew horribly wide.

At that stage, it appeared City’s long unbeaten run at Etihad Stadium – going back to November 2022 – was about to end, but Rodri had other ideas, with his 83rd-minute strike finally ending Chelsea’s resistance.

City could not find a winner and have lost ground to Liverpool and Arsenal in the title race, but their manager Pep Guardiola put the blame for a draw on a poor first-half performance rather than the inability of his star striker to find the net.

‘The next game he will score’

Seven of Haaland’s efforts were headers, including the one he sent soaring over the bar from Julian Alvarez’s cross in the opening minutes.

His xG, or expected goals, was 1.71 – again his highest without a goal in any game for City – but only two of his attempts tested Chelsea keeper Dorde Petrovic. Haaland was off target with his feet too – with another golden chance from a Phil Foden cross going begging when he sliced his volley wide.

Guardiola refused to blame his 23-year-old striker for the dropped points, however, and pointed at his own scoring record as a reason why he is not going to start telling the Norwegian how to find the net.

“It’s good he had nine shots – the next game he is going to score,” Guardiola said afterwards.

“Listen, I was a football player. I played 11 years and scored 11 goals. What a stat, hey?

“One goal a season, those are my stats. So, I am not the proper man to give advice to the striker, and what they have to do. We created the chances, he had the chances and next game he is going to score.

“I don’t blame [him for] that… it is football, it is human beings. It is just as a team, as a group, in the first half we did not perform at our level.”

‘We deserved to win’

Guardiola felt his side responded well after falling behind to a strike from former City forward Raheem Sterling and insisted they should still have won the game despite coming so close to defeat.

“The way we played, we deserved to win,” he added. “I have no doubt about that, with the chances we had, that we deserved it.

“The first half was tight, they had their chances with the transition. Our dynamic was not proper, but we had two or three clear [chances] too.

“But we started to play after we scored a goal. We reacted after Raheem [Sterling] scored and the second half was really good with the way we played and the way we did everything.”

Rodri bemoans poor defending

Rodri’s goal maintained his own long unbeaten streak – he has gone more than a year since being on the losing side, a run of 55 games.

But the Spanish midfielder felt City did not deserve more after what he saw as a poor defensive display before the break – and also felt some big decisions went against his side.

“It’s a point, a draw, of course we want to win and the way we performed [in the] second half we deserved a bit more, but when you defend like we did you can’t get more,” he explained.

“It was in our hands and we have to do better individual actions and you can’t let the game go this way. I’m not blaming anyone but we have to take responsibility if we want to win the league.

“We had chances to win and I felt the momentum, but sometimes it’s a bit frustrating and the ball doesn’t go in. I don’t want to talk abut the referee, but I don’t remember a game with so many VAR checks and none for us, come on man. You always see the face of referee and it’s now ‘move on, move on’.”

The result sees City drop to third in the table, four points behind leaders Liverpool but with a game in hand. They can close the gap, and leapfrog second-placed Arsenal, if they beat Brentford here on Tuesday.

“There’s still a long way until the end of the season,” added Rodri. “We have to win against Brentford.

“We were on a very good run and we know none of us three [City, Liverpool and Arsenal] will win every game until the end. We have to have strong mentality and move on to the next one.”

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