LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola refused to be drawn on the controversy surrounding Liverpool’s opening goal in a 3-1 loss at Anfield on Sunday which left his side nine points behind the leaders in the Premier League.
Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold appeared to handle the ball inside the box but instead of a City penalty, the hosts broke and 22 seconds later Fabinho blasted in the opening goal.
Guardiola was enraged on the touchline, as was Sergio Aguero on the pitch, and after the final whistle he shook hands with Liverpool’s players before seeking out the match officials and saying “thank you so much” — his voice dripping with sarcasm.
The incident proved a turning point in Liverpool’s victory which opened up a nine-point lead over reigning champions City who are fourth, a point behind Chelsea and Leicester City.
Asked for his opinion on the opening goal, Guardiola pointedly would not discuss it.
“Ask to the referees, don’t ask to me,” he told Sky Sports. “Ask to (referees chief) Mike Riley and the guys in the VAR, don’t ask to me.”
Guardiola preferred to talk about what he described as an “incredible” display by his beaten side.
“What happened today was we showed why we are the champions,” he said. “In this stadium to play the way we played was incredible, so I’m so proud of my team more than ever.
“Against the strongest team in Europe, so proud.”
Asked whether a nine-point gap could be bridged to a side that has not lost in 29 Premier League games, Guardiola said he was “not a magician”.
“We tried to do our job and I would like to talk about our performance which was so good,” he said. “The way we played was awesome, one of the best performances.
“There is still seven months and if Liverpool win I will be the first to congratulate them because we can’t deny how good they are. The way they play and create chances and the personality to play all the time.
“It was an honour for both teams to show the Premier League to spectators this type of game.”
Alexander-Arnold admitted the ball had struck his arm but said it had hit City midfielder Bernardo Silva’s arm first.
“We know there’s VAR but you have to carry on playing, they complained but you have to keep on playing. We went down the other end and punished them,” he said.
Silva also declined to talk about the opening goal but said City would fight until the end.
“We’ve been in this position last season, we will never give up,” he said. “We’re only in November and they still have to play at the Etihad and there are plenty of games to play.
“We are not in the ideal position, or the one we’d want to be, we have to improve.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis