Man City coach admits “difficult” experience against spirited Sheffield United

Rodri the hero for City in late win
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Manchester City coach Juanma Lillo described Sheffield United as a “difficult opponent” after Rodri’s late winner earned the treble-winners all three points at Bramall Lane. United looked to have snatched a battling draw late on when Jayden Bogle netted in the 85th minute, before Rodri pounced three minutes later.

City dominated possession, finishing with 80 per cent of the ball and 30 shots on goal, with Erling Haaland missing a first-half penalty and seeing a goal ruled out for offside. The flag also chalked off Nathan Ake’s first-half ‘goal’ while Wes Foderingham in the United goal was in inspired form.

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Lillo was in charge on the touchline in Pep Guardiola’s absence, as the City boss recovers from back surgery in Spain, and said: “Generally I thought we played really well today. It was a lot closer to what we wanted than the scoreline suggested. In the first half it was really hard to find that space in behind.

“The penalty could have changed everything had that gone in. We saw the team were very stable and constantly looking towards goal. From the second half we really raised the rhythm, we were able to win the ball back a lot quicker. We were able to use those new spaces that were created from winning the ball back quicker.

“We could find Julian [Alvarez] on his own, Bernardo [Silva] on his own with time. We could’ve scored more before the first went in. Playing against such a difficult opponent was even more difficult for our players.”

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On Guardiola’s influence, Lillo added: “During the match I spoke to him at some moments but generally he was speaking to other members of the technical staff. He has been totally present today.

“If there was more space on the bench I wouldn’t have sat in his seat. Pep’s seat is Pep’s seat. He was there with us the whole time. I much prefer being with Pep and especially when it’s a question of health I don’t enjoy this at all.

“When I was here before - and now - he was encouraging us all to be involved. We need his presence more than ever.”