Man City’s cruise to Champions League quarters cause for celebration, says Guardiola

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola has said Manchester City’s routine drive to the Champions League quarter-finals was cause for celebration despite a 0-0 draw with Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday.

All the hard work for the English champions was done with a 5-0 win in the Portuguese capital three weeks ago as City reached the last eight for the fifth successive season.

“It’s a good sign,” Guardiola said. “The last decade, step by step, the club has grown. Every season playing this competition, qualifying for the round of 16 and now in the top eight teams in Europe.”

City are on course for a fourth Premier League title in five seasons, but the Champions League has so far remained out of reach despite the billions invested by the owners of the Abu Dhabi club.

Guardiola knows his Manchester legacy will be judged on whether he can finally make City the champions of Europe.

However, he thinks becoming a regular contender shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Every year when we qualify for the Champions League, I celebrate that night because I know how difficult it is,” he added.

“When you qualify for the round of 16, I celebrate it. Now is the time to congratulate everyone, focus on the Premier League and see who we get in the draw.”

A much tougher test awaits them in the last eight as Sporting travel to the Etihad just to avoid another embarrassing scoreline like the one they suffered at home.

“After the result of the first match, the tie became practically impossible,” said Sporting goalkeeper Antonio Adan.

“The team was better defensively, and they didn’t play with the same clarity either. We leave satisfied.”

Guardiola made his European debut at teenage right-back CJ Egan-Riley with a number of defenders injured, ill or suspended.

Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez were also rested from the start, but City should have won the game comfortably anyway.

Raheem Sterling squandered the home side’s best chance as the England international failed to get the ball past Adan on Phil Foden’s sensational through ball.

After an uneventful first half, City thought they had taken the lead through Gabriel Jesus early in the second half.

Mahrez, introduced at the break, ran into the box and slid the ball into the Brazilian on the left.

Jesus slammed in from a tight angle but the goal was disallowed for offside following a VAR review.

The state of play was summed up when Guardiola seized the opportunity to hand 36-year-old goalkeeper Scott Carson his first Champions League appearance since 2005, replacing Ederson with 17 minutes remaining.

Carson was called into action to bravely block Pedro Porro with Sporting’s best chance moments later.

Mahrez, John Stones and Sterling all missed late chances to break the deadlock, but Sporting clawed back some pride as they waited for a clean sheet.

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