LONDON — Pep Guardiola stopped short of criticising the state of the Wembley pitch but said it contributed to Erik Lamela’s late miss in Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
The Wembley turf, covered in NFL marking following Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars, was bare and bumpy in large areas contributing to a poor quality game. Riyad Mahrez scored the only goal in the sixth minute but Lamela blasted a late chance over the bar when the ball bobbled as he hit it.
City, who returned to the top of the table, have now conceded just three goals from 10 Premier League goals this season with Ederson not beaten in his last 600 minutes.
“Of course when we played in the Emirates, in Anfield and today here it’s normal to concede chances,” Guardiola told a news conference. “The opponents are so tough, so quick that that’s pretty normal. It’s important to create.
“Today was a little bit exceptional. Lamela had a clear chance but because of the grass they didn’t score. If the grass is good, I’m pretty sure he scores with his left foot but the bounce was not good and that’s what happened.”
Guardiola added that both teams should be praised for playing on such a difficult pitch, insisting it also affected Tottenham’s passing game. And he said his own team stood up well to Tottenham’s physically superiority, which could have been decisive on such a poor playing surface.
“They are one of the most physical opponents I have faced in my career,” Guardiola added. “Congratulations to both sides because it was a good game in difficult conditions for the pitch.
“You see in the tunnel Dier, Dembele, Sissoko, Harry Kane, Lucas Moura, Dele Alli, Sanchez, Alderweireld — it is incredible how strong they are.
“I felt that my first time I played against Tottenham when we lost 2-0 and could have lost 4-0. That’s why I give a lot of credit to teams playing on the grass. It’s incredible the way we played in those conditions.
“Tottenham are one of the teams I admire the most but I don’t think the grass today helped them either because they had a lot of quality to play. Harry Winks changed the game when he came on and they are an exceptional team.”
City centre-back Aymeric Laporte also said the team was caught off-guard by Wembley’s condition.
“The truth is that we have been a little bit surprised about the state of the pitch. But the most important thing was to win and that’s what we have done,” Laporte said. “I think we have been very good. They also play. We wanted to win and that’s what we’ve done.
“We try to do it in the best possible way. Sometimes you can play more [your football] and sometimes less. Today we played a little less. We had the opportunity to score the second, but we couldn’t get it. The goal and the victory is the most important thing because we are going with three points.”