Manchester City’s tactics remain the same even if goal machine Erling Haaland is absent, manager Pep Guardiola said on Saturday after his side romped to a 4-1 win over Liverpool with the Norwegian striker cheering on the team from the sidelines.
Argentine World Cup winner Julian Alvarez, Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Jack Grealish were on target for City, brushing aside any fears that it may struggle to score without Haaland.
“Nothing changed,” Guardiola said after his 100th win at Etihad with City. “The quality, the football tactics is players, and when we have Erling we have something special, and Julian (Alvarez) is something special too.
“He was so clever with the ball, he’s an exceptional player. The club made an exceptional signing with him – he’s a world champion alongside Lionel Messi because he has something.”
City’s thrashing of Juergen Klopp’s beleaguered side kept it eight points adrift of leader Arsenal in the chase for the Premier League title.
Premier League top scorer Haaland, whose haul of 42 goals in all competitions includes 28 in the league, suffered a groin injury against Burnley on March 18. His fitness is unclear, although TV cameras caught him on his feet wildly celebrating Alvarez’s goal.
However, Guardiola was criticised for his exuberant celebrations.
The City manager pumped his fists wildly after Alvarez’s goal and then confronted Liverpool substitutes Kostas Tsimikas and Arthur Melo when they walked by him on the sidelines seconds later.
He grinned and shook his fists at Tsimikas before giving him a pat on the side, and then grabbed Melo in a handshake.
“I don’t know how Tsimikas hasn’t pushed him out of the way there,” former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand told BT Sport.
“I celebrate a goal . . . the goal was nice,” Guardiola said, wiping a hand over his face.
“You thought it was a lack of respect?” he asked a reporter. “I’m really sorry, I’m so sorry.”
The club also issued a statement after chants of “Always the victim, it’s never your fault,” broke out around the stadium.
It was prompted by Liverpool’s pleas to referee Simon Hooper to send Rodri off after a challenge on Cody Gakpo.
“Manchester City are disappointed to have heard inappropriate chants from home fans during today’s game,” the team said.
“We regret any offence these chants may have caused and will continue to work with supporters groups and officials from both clubs to eradicate hateful chanting.”
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