27 Nov 2019, 06:00 IST
Pep Guardiola turned focus to the Premier League title race after Manchester City booked their place in the Champions League last 16 with a 1-1 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk.
A point was enough for the English champions to advance through as Group C winners with a game to spare thanks to Dinamo Zagreb’s defeat to Atalanta.
City struggled to get going at the Etihad Stadium but took the lead through Ilkay Gundogan 11 minutes into the second half, only for substitute Manor Solomon to equalise soon after.
Despite his side’s underwhelming display, making it back-to-back European draws, Guardiola was ultimately pleased to see his side achieve their aim of progression.
“We qualify and we played well in the second half,” Guardiola, who had won nine of his previous 12 matches against Shakhtar, told BT Sport.
FULL-TIME | The points are shared at the Etihad, but we secure our place as Group C winners and will head through to the #UCL knockout stages!
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 26, 2019
“The second half was better than the first. We conceded only a few counter-attacks.
“In the first half we were too hurried in our play and gave away possession but in the second half we were more measured and improved.
“I’ve played against Shakhtar Donetsk many times and they always have quality players. In general, we created chances but the draw was enough in the end.
“Now we have one competition already done, and our focus will be the Premier League, until we arrive in the cups. The target was to qualify and we have done it.”
City have advanced out of the group phase in seven successive seasons, four of those under Guardiola, and the Catalan coach admitted the club have come a long way.
“This process, where we are right now and where we were a decade ago… seven years in a row means you have to qualify seven times and be there and go through,” he added at his post-match news conference.
“We will see in which conditions we arrive in the knockout rounds, but now it is time to focus on the Premier League.”
Guardiola’s side are unbeaten in 10 group-stage games since October 2018 and head to Zagreb next month.
The two-time Champions League-winning coach suggested he will not play a weakened team in Croatia, however, as he does not want to devalue the competition.
— Ilkay Gündogan (@IlkayGuendogan) November 26, 2019
“Of course I will take a look but we are going to have enough players. We will use the first team,” he said. “The Champions League is prestigious.
“We are going to travel with the intention to win. For respect for Shakhtar and Atalanta we have to do it.”
The draw leaves Ukrainian champions Shakhtar second in Group C, a point better off than Dinamo and two in front of next opponents Atalanta.
Head coach Luis Castro was pleased with the result, which stretches his side’s unbeaten away run in the competition to four games and leaves them well positioned to qualify.
“To be honest, any result I accept normally,” he said. “The game is never evaluated by how many corners or fouls or opportunities there were.
“In every game there are certain statistics we can look at. We could have won, City could have won but the result was 1-1.
“In principle, as we expected, the last game of City will be against Dinamo Zagreb. We knew if we lost we could be out of the competition.
“We are happy with both results and everything will be decided by the last game. We will see.”
Fetching more content…