LONDON – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola refused to blame his players after the runaway Premier League leaders, reduced to 10 men at halftime, were knocked out of the FA Cup by third-tier Wigan Athletic.
Monday’s 1-0 fifth round defeat at the DW Stadium, a repeat of the 2013 final won by Wigan when the Latics were in the top tier, ended City’s hopes of an unprecedented league and Cup quadruple this season.
“Congratulations for Wigan for the qualification,” Guardiola told BBC radio. “We did absolutely everything, we made a mistake and this kind of game is like a final. Okay, we accept the defeat.
“Wigan won, congratulations to them and now we rest to prepare for the League Cup final.”
City play Arsenal in the final of that competition at Wembley on Sunday.
The overwhelming favourites against opponents fighting for promotion from League One, City were always wary of Wigan’s proud reputation as a “bogey team” in the world’s oldest and most romantic domestic Cup competition.
Apart from beating them in the 2013 final, Wigan had also dumped them out at the quarter-final stage of the competition at the Etihad Stadium a season later just as City were heading for the league title under 64-year-old Manuel Pellegrini.
City started with their Argentine top scorer Sergio Aguero, 29, and had Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, 26, waiting on the bench but neither were able to make the most of their side’s dominant possession.
In the end, the match turned on at the sending off of Fabian Delph on the stroke of halftime with the City midfielder shown a controversial red card for a sliding tackle as teammates crowded around the referee in protest.
Wigan’s prolific goalscorer Will Grigg then fired in a 79th minute winner.
Despite his obvious anger at the time, Guardiola steered clear of criticism of the official after the final whistle.
“Red card. It was the decision,” he said. “They had one shot on target, I don’t have regrets with the way we played, the performance, the heart,” continued the manager.
“I judge my players on intentions and not results and the intentions were good.”