Guardiola unhappy with ball after City juggernaut halted

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England's secondary cup competition uses a Mitre ball, whereas the Premier League uses a Nike ball. Guardiola said his players complained about the ball after the Wolves match.
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Reuters

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero (right), who scored the winning penalty, celebrates with goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who made two saves in the penalty shootout in the English League Cup fourth-round match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northwest England, on October 24, 2017. The game ended 0-0 after extra time and City won 4-1 on penalties.

After thrilling English soccer by scoring 42 goals in 13 games this season, Manchester City's attacking juggernaut was finally halted in the English League Cup.

Pep Guardiola thinks he knows why.

"The ball is not a serious ball for a professional game," the City manager said.

City needed a penalty shootout to get past Wolverhampton Wanderers in the last 16 on Tuesday after the game ended 0-0 after extra time. It was the first time Guardiola's team had failed to score in a match all season, with its last shutout coming against Manchester United in April.

England's secondary cup competition uses a Mitre ball, whereas the Premier League uses a Nike ball. Guardiola said his players complained about the ball after the match against Wolves.

"It is not acceptable, the ball was unacceptable for a high-level competition," Guardiola said. "It is too light, it moves all over the place, it is not a good ball. It is impossible to score with a ball like that."

The English Football League, which organizes the competition, said the same ball is used in the English lower leagues and has been "tested in accordance with the 'FIFA Quality Programme for Footballs' and meet the 'FIFA Quality Pro' standard."

"All balls used in the professional game are required to meet this standard," the EFL statement said. "Clearly, preference is a subjective matter, but overall the entertainment provided across last night's Round Four ties would suggest that the ball used is not having a negative impact in the competition."

The EFL said it will "engage with Mr Guardiola and Manchester City to fully understand any concerns" ahead of the next round.

There were 18 goals scored in six matches in the last 16 on Tuesday, with City involved in the only goalless draw. City beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in the previous round.

Guardiola said his players had "one or two days" to practice with the Mitre ball ahead of the League Cup game.

"But the ball is bad for one year or two years, it's not acceptable," he said. "All the players complain."

In fact, City's Yaya Toure said it was worse than the much-maligned Jabulani used in the 2010 World Cup.

"I don't like it, to be honest," said City and Ivory Coast midfielder Toure. "They can do better than that. It's too light. Even in my country they can't use those kind of balls.

"I think they have to be better than that because the ball was too soft. It's rubbish but that's fine. The World Cup one (Jabulani) was better than that one."

City, seeking a club-record 12th straight win, met its match in the Championship leader and had goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to thank for keeping it in the game before it  eased through in the shootout with Sergio Aguero scoring the final penalty.

Both sides kept just two players from the teams they fielded at the weekend, a familiar theme on the night with the 12 teams in six matches collectively making a total of 99 changes.

AFP

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah heads the ball to scores his team's second goal in the first half of extra time during their English League Cup fourth-round match against Norwich City at The Emirates Stadium in London on October 24, 2017. Arsenal won 2-1 after extra time.

Holder Manchester United made eight changes to the side humbled by Huddersfield Town on Saturday but was too strong for Swansea City with Jesse Lingard scoring both goals in a 2-0 win.

"The attitude was good," said manager Jose Mourinho, who had criticized his team after its weekend Premier League defeat.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger even put out an entirely new starting XI from that which faced Everton on Sunday and had substitute Eddie Nketiah to thank for the 2-1 extra-time win over another second-tier side Norwich City.

The 18-year-old scored twice — his first goals for the club — including one with his first touch 15 seconds after coming on in the 85th minute. The goal was the first scored by an Arsenal player born after the Frenchman took over as manager.

Nketiah added his second six minutes into extra time as Arsenal, which had trailed to Josh Murphy's 34th-minute opener, finally saw off the spirited challenge of the visitors.

Bristol City inflicted more misery on Premier League basement side Crystal Palace and former England manager Roy Hodgson by routing the south London side 4-1 at Ashton Gate.

Hodgson endured an ill-fated spell in charge at City in 1982 and had an equally chastening night on his return 35 years later as City claimed its third top-flight scalp of the season to reach the last eight for the first time since 1989.

Leicester City caretaker manager Michael Appleton made it two wins from two as his Midlands side came from behind to beat Leeds United 3-1 with goals from Kelechi Iheanacho, his first for the Foxes, Islam Slimani and Riyadh Mahrez.

Bournemouth's Callum Wilson scored on his return from long-term injury as it beat Middlesbrough 3-1 to reach the quarterfinals for the second time in their history.

The last two fourth-round matches take place on Wednesday when Chelsea hosts Everton and Tottenham Hotspur clashes with London rival West Ham United at Wembley Stadium.


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