The Associated PressMANCHESTER (AP) — Across his stellar managerial career, Pep Guardiola has won the Champions League twice, captured 19 other major trophies and coached perhaps the greatest ever club team in Barcelona’s class of 2009-11.
It was surprising then that the Manchester City coach thought a 1-1 draw against Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday represented “one of the happiest days of my career.”
City’s players, Guardiola revealed, had been moping around the training ground — “they were so, so sad” — since the team’s Champions League elimination by Monaco on Wednesday, and were now facing a direct rival for the top four that specializes in winning heavyweight Premier League games.
When Liverpool took the lead through James Milner’s penalty in the 51st minute, City’s resolve was tested again. That his players managed to come out of the game with a point, through Sergio Aguero’s 69th-minute goal, gave Guardiola a special feeling.
“It is one of the days I am proud of the most,” an animated Guardiola said.
His Liverpool counterpart, Juergen Klopp, felt Guardiola was caught up in the moment — “He is Spanish, They are a little bit more emotional than Germans” — but perhaps it was understandable after the riveting fare that the two teams had just served up.
Aided by some weak defending, there were chances galore at Etihad Stadium and it came as a surprise that only two goals were scored.
City’s equalizer was slickly executed, with Kevin De Bruyne delivering a teasing low cross from the right that Aguero tucked home from just outside the six-yard box. Aguero has scored in all five homes games against Liverpool in the Premier League.
A draw was probably a fair result in the end, keeping the teams in the last two Champions League qualifying places.
In other Premier League action, Manchester United defied the absence of the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic — and fatigue because of its hectic fixture schedule — to beat relegation-threatened Middlesbrough 3-1 away in a match that ended with player bust-ups on and off the field.
Tottenham has lost top scorer Harry Kane for up to five weeks because of injury and the team’s attacking midfielders stepped up to fill the void, with Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli scoring in a 2-1 win over Southampton. It was Spurs’ 10th straight victory at home in the league.
Tottenham is in second place, 10 points behind Chelsea and two points ahead of City. Liverpool is a point further back in fourth and four clear of fifth-placed United, which has two games in hand.
United has finished each of the last 19 weeks in sixth place in the Premier League, but finally climbed a spot with its win at the Riverside Stadium. Arsenal, which lost 3-1 at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, has slipped to sixth place.
Messi strikes twice for Barca
BARCELONA (AP) — Lionel Messi scored his 40th and 41st goals in all competitions this season to lead Barcelona to a 4-2 victory over 10-man Valencia in the Spanish league on Sunday.
Back in Camp Nou for the first time since a 6-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, Barcelona got another outstanding performance from Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez to keep its domestic title defense alive.
Barcelona remained two points behind leader Real Madrid, which has a game in hand.
“We had to remain patient, fight back and increase the pace of the match,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “We created a huge number of scoring opportunities.”