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â€˘ Manager says he underestimated Sporting Lisbon
â€˘ Kolo TourĂ© claims players ‘did not run 100% in first half’
Roberto Mancini blamed himself after Manchester City were knocked out of the Europa League, saying he made mistakes and that he underestimated the threat of their conquerors, Sporting Lisbon.
City engineered a storming second-half comeback from 2â€“0 down to win the match 3-2 with two from Sergio AgĂĽero either side of a Mario Balotelli penalty, but they were eliminated on away goals.
Sporting won the opening game of the last-16 tie 1-0 last week and Mancini’s team followed Manchester United out of the tournament when the City goalkeeper Joe Hart was denied a dramatic tie-winning goal as his injury-time header was tipped past a post by Rui PatrĂcio.
Mancini, as he did following the league defeat at Everton in January, chose to shield his players from any blame. “I’m proud for the performance, I’m disappointed for the [two] games because I think we probably didn’t deserve to go out,” the Italian said. “But I am the manager, it is not the players fault, it is my fault. Probably I made mistakes â€“ the players did everything on the pitch so I’m very proud.”
In the previous round City knocked out Porto, who lead Sporting by 12 points in the Primeira Liga, and Mancini added: “I made a mistake in the first game when I prepared because, after Porto, to play against Sporting I thought was maybe easy, but football is never easy.”
When it was pointed out that as City have a team full of experienced internationals and that the players must take some responsibility, the Italian said: “OK, I understand, but this is football, every game is difficult.
“The manager is always the person that does the game. Probably I did make some mistakes for these two games.”
The City defender Kolo TourĂ© did not agree with the reasons given by the manager for their exit when he claimed afterwards that the players’ performances had fallen short of the standard required. “The players did not run 100% in the first half,” he told TalkSport.
Despite being knocked out, City’s win on the night halted a sequence of two consecutive defeats, and the manner of the comeback after the interval gives Mancini confidence ahead of Chelsea’s visit to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
City trail Manchester United by a point and the manager was asked if there is a concern he may make further mistakes that could jeopardise his team’s chances of being crowned champions.
He replied: “It’s [only] the second time this year [after the Everton match]. No, I think we have only one problem at this moment, that we have four players injured, important players. It is not good,” he said of Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott, Pablo Zabaleta and Gareth Barry.
“If we have the same spirit as we did in the second half we can win the next game against Chelsea. And I am confident for the Premier League â€“ we have stayed on the top for six months, now we are one point behind.”
Mancini also joked that City followed United’s exit from the competition to ensure they can also focus their efforts. “We were envious of United because they lost and we wanted to lose this game â€“ no, I think now it will be a good fight until the end of the season because we have only the Premier League and we can put all our [energy] into this. It will be good.”
While Mancini admitted he was “disappointed” with Balotelli for conceding the foul that led to Lisbon’s opener,.
Hart echoed his manager’s view of the title-run in and the Chelsea match. “We can take positives because we’re a great side. We are one point behind the leaders of the Premier League, we are a good team, we have nothing to worry about. We go into that game favourites and hopefully we will win,” he said.