Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola said he will address Manchester City’s problems from the penalty spot despite Rodrigo scoring in a 3-0 win over Tottenham on Saturday to open up a seven-point lead at the top of the table.
The in-form Ilkay Gundogan also scored twice before hobbling off with a groin injury that will concern City just 11 days before their return to Champions League action against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Guardiola is already turning his attention to European competition and is wary that City’s dismal penalty record will cost them when the fine margins matter most in a Champions League knockout tie.
Rodrigo — who had not scored for nearly a year — took responsibility after Gundogan and Raheem Sterling missed spot-kicks in recent weeks.
Hugo Lloris should have saved the Spanish midfielder’s effort as the French goalkeeper got a hand to it.
“I admire and love the courage to take it,” said Guardiola. “But the taker was not good, we were lucky.”
Guardiola has speculated that goalkeeper Ederson could take over penalty duties and said his stunning long pass to set up Gundogan’s second goal shows why.
“If he can play that pass from 70 yards he can shoot from 12. His quality of the shot is good,” added Guardiola. “The Champions League is coming and when you miss it is so hard.”
Victory for City stretched their record-breaking winning run for an English top-flight team to 16 in all competitions.
Guardiola’s men have a game in hand on second-placed Leicester and move eight ahead of Manchester United, who are in action away to West Brom on Sunday.
– Tired Tottenham –
Spurs, by contrast, have now lost five of their last six to remain four points off the top four, despite fourth-placed Liverpool’s struggles.
The fortunes of both clubs have changed dramatically since Tottenham were the last side to beat City 23 games ago.
Victory that day took Jose Mourinho’s men top of the table, but they have won just four of their 14 league games since to slide to eighth.
The visitors were unfortunate not to go in front when Harry Kane’s stunning free-kick came back off the post.
Mourinho bemoaned that moment, plus the toll playing extra-time in a 5-4 defeat to Everton on Wednesday had taken on his team.
“It was a fresh team against a very tired team,” said Mourinho. “We hit the post and 1-0 could give us that fuel that you need when you are especially tired.”
However, they had a mountain to climb against a City side that have conceded just twice in their last 11 league games once the hosts were gifted an opener.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg clipped Gundogan’s heels inside the box and referee Paul Tierney pointed to the spot midway through the first half.
“One more of these modern penalties to put us in a difficult situation,” added Mourinho.
Lloris was even more at fault for City’s second when Gundogan’s tame effort on his weaker left foot slipped under the goalkeeper’s grasp on 50 minutes.
It was City’s stopper who then had a big part to play in the third as Ederson’s superb long pass picked out Gundogan’s run from midfield and he turned Davinson Sanchez before slotting into the bottom corner for his 11th goal in his last 12 league games.
Mourinho turned to two of his forgotten men, Dele Alli and Gareth Bale, to try and make an impact off the bench in the final quarter.
The Tottenham boss took exception to a social media post by Bale, showing him training, after the Welshman ruled himself out of his side’s FA Cup defeat to Everton on Wednesday.
Bale has struggled to make any meaningful impact in his second spell at the club on loan from Real Madrid, but the 31-year-old showed flashes of his old self with a brilliant jinking run that forced Ederson into a flying save to preserve his sixth consecutive clean sheet at the Etihad.