Pep Guardiola got his first taste of victory as Manchester City’s manager on Thursday night after beating Borussia Dortmund on penalties in a friendly, but expressed concern about the looming English Premier League season.
“Football today is tough,” said Guardiola, whose side beat their German opposition in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
“Today you don’t have time to rest. I don’t know if we are going to kill our players but the schedule is the schedule. We start in two weeks. But I saw what I wanted to see [tonight] – we are aggressive and we want the ball.”
City won – and finally got the workout Guardiola had craved – thanks to a 6-5 penalty shootout win over Dortmund, after the game ended one apiece.
Guardiola admitted City were still a work in progress with just two pre-season games completed so far, and two to come before the EPL action kicks off.
“I don’t want to complain but I would like to have more time,” said Guardiola. “But we have to adapt. Today we played one of the best teams in Europe – they are so strong. There are many things to improve.”
A tap-in from Sergio Aguero for City on 79 minutes was cancelled out after Christian Pulisic fired one home for Dortmund, through a crowded box, with six minutes of added time gone.
City keeper Angus Gunn was the hero of penalties with three saves, including the one sealing their victory when he palmed away Mikel Merino’s attempt.
It was a lively enough affair in front of a crowd of around 32 000 at the Shenzhen Universiade Stadium, with both managers drawing deep on their substitutes benches as time wore on.
Robbed of the chance for a derby against rivals Manchester United by rain and a ropey pitch on Monday, City’s Spanish manager had been desperate to get some game time into his squad before their tour of China was over. On Thursday the weather gods were kinder, with temperatures dropping slightly.
He gave Oleksandr Zinchenko, Tosin Adarabioyo and Kelechi Iheanacho starts and the chance to impress their new boss, while Guardiola’s opposite number Thomas Tuchel continued to blood his new recruits also as he had in their 4-1 win over Manchester United in the tournament’s opening match in Shanghai last Friday.
Teenagers Ousmane Dembele (19) and Emre Mor (18) both started, alongside Marc Bartra, Dortmund’s off-season capture from Barcelona. In all there were six new faces from the starting XI against United as Tuchel looked to put miles into legs.
But the goals came late and Tuchel could be excused if he thought life was unfair, given the chances his side had been presented with, and the opportunity – missed – to complete a double over both shades of Manchester.