Pep Guardiola has backed Manchester City to return to the Champions League final as he reacted to the heartbreak of losing to Chelsea in Porto.
Kai Havertz scored the only goal of the game to decide a tight encounter and the City boss says his players will learn from the experience.
The German midfielder’s goal denied City a fairy-tale end to an already successful season, but Guardiola refused to criticise his squad, who he felt gave everything on the night.
“It was an exceptional season for us, it was a dream being here, unfortunately we couldn’t win,” he said at his post-match press conference.
“If today we analyse the game of course we are sad. Congratulations to Chelsea, we have to learn from this, we will learn for the future.
“But the season was exceptional, I have incredible respect for the players, they did everything, they gave everything on the pitch.
“Unfortunately, today we couldn’t win, but we will come back in the future stronger.”
There was surprise before kick-off when Guardiola elected to leave both Fernandinho and Rodrigo on the bench at the Estadio do Dragao.
With Ilkay Gundogan the deepest lying midfielder in an attack-minded starting XI, the Catalan says he picked the team he thought was best equipped to win the game, though was left ruing the our performance in the final third.
Toni Rudiger made a superb block to deny Phil Foden, whilst Riyad Mahrez flashed a half volley inches over the bar in the denying minutes and Guardiola admitted we came up short with the moments of quality required to win such a finely balanced contest.
“I tried the best selection to win the game,” he added.
“The players know it, I think Gundogan played good, we were exceptional. We missed a bit to break the lines in the first half but the second half was much better.
“It was a tight game, we had some almost chances, no clear ones. The defensive structure of Chelsea it’s not easy. They had the goal, Werner in the first half and Pulisic in the second, they didn’t have more.
“We struggled a little bit with long balls and second balls. In that moment you need the inspiration and quality, there were three or four moments that were close to score a goal, but they didn’t’ arrive.”
CITY WILL COME AGAIN
Even though we lost, this should not taint what has been a terrific season. It is disappointing, of course, but it is still a measure of the progress we have made. It should not be viewed as a failure.
To reach the Champions League final is a magnificent achievement and one we have waited many years for.