Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola accepted his side “can be better” after a 1-0 win over West Ham at the Etihad on Wednesday kept them in the hunt to retain their Premier League title and a remarkable quadruple of trophies.
Just days after a penalty shoot-out win over Chelsea at Wembley saw City to victory in the League Cup final, Guardiola’s men were indebted to a 59th-minute spot-kick from Sergio Aguero for a victory that left the English champions a point behind leaders Liverpool
With the League Cup already in their trophy cabinet, a City side also still involved in the FA Cup and Champions League could yet end the season having won a remarkable four major pieces of silverware in the one campaign.
They didn’t make life easy for themselves on Wednesday and were indebted to what West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini labelled a “soft” penalty, awarded when Felipe Anderson made contact with City substitute Bernardo Silva, for giving Aguero the chance to score the lone goal.
“We played so well. You see the result, 1-0, you think it could be better,” said Guardiola. “Of course we created an incredible amount of chances.
“The first five minutes could be 2-0, with three clear chances. But the performance in the way we defended second balls, we did everything. After 120 minutes (against Chelsea), the tension we played with was amazing. We made an incredible performance. I’m so delighted with the way we play.”
Guardiola added: “We could have scored a second one, it could have been easy. Unfortunately it was so demanding.
“Every three days is tough. We can better. If we scored the second or third goal but we played a really good game.”
‘Not a penalty’
Meanwhile Pellegrini, who led City to the title in 2014, was adamant Anderson should not have been penalised for the contact he made with Bernardo Silva.
“To be generous, it was a little soft,” said Pellegrini. “That is too generous really. It was not a penalty.”
The Chilean added: “I’m not happy with the result because it was not a penalty. Bernardo Silva threw himself down when he felt a touch.
“Lanzini had the same thing but didn’t go down, so the referee didn’t whistle.
“They didn’t score another goal, we defended very well. (Lukasz) Fabianski’s first save was in minute 61 and after that they only had a couple of chances. You don’t normally see Man City in the last four minutes trying to delay the game to finish 1-0.”
The goal continued Aguero’s astonishing goalscoring run, particularly at the Etihad where he has now scored 30 goals in his last 24 league starts — every one of them ending in a City victory.
After the exhausting League Cup final win over Chelsea, one which resulted in costly injuries to Fernandinho and Aymeric Laporte, City started strongly.
Inside 60 seconds, Kevin De Bruyne’s 20-yard shot flew just wide of the post, Riyad Mahrez hurried his shot over on the volley from six yards.
David Silva struck the post with a skilful back-heeled flick and De Bruyne then volleyed over from 12 yards.
Despite his claims to have been pleased by the performance, Guardiola still threw on Raheem Sterling and Bernardo early in the second half to try to kick start his attack, a move that proved successful.
By that stage, City had already seen West Ham miss the best chance of the game to date when Andy Carroll’s close-range shot was superbly saved by Ederson.