Aleks Zinchenko denies Champions League role in Man City defeat to Liverpool
Manchester City cannot use their Madrid exertions to excuse their first half capitulation to Liverpool at Wembley. That’s according to Aleks Zinchenko who disagreed that the effort of qualifying for the Champions League semi-finals in a bruising encounter with the Spanish champions led to an awful first 45 minutes in the FA Cup semi-final.
City were without Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker — both injured in the goalless draw at the Wanda Metropolitano — and rested Rodri and Aymeric Laporte at Wembley. But Pep Guardiola fielded Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo — who have both played in of the four huge games against Liverpool and Atletico in the space of 11 days. They also flew directly to London from Madrid in a bid to cut their travelling time.
Guardiola’s side looked sluggish and unprepared in the first half as two Sadio Mane goals and an Ibrahima Konate header put the Merseysiders in firm control. City fought back in the second half with goals from Jack Grealish and Bernardo and Fernandinho almost sent it to extra time with a late volley that deflected over the bar.
Zinchenko — who was drafted in at left back, with Cancelo switching to right back to replace the injured Walker — said the difficult midweek European away was not a factor in the defeat. “At this stage, every game is a final. It doesn’t matter what competition it is,” he said.
“We can be tired mentally but you have to sort these kind of things out at this level. We have a big squad, we have a lot of players who can play. We cannot give excuses. Everyone was ready to play. Everyone did everything and left everything on the pitch.”
Zinchenko hinted that the Atletico battle had been taxing mentally, as a bad-tempered game on the pitch afterwards erupted into scuffles in the tunnel, but said a squad like City is experienced in dealing with such situations.
“You can be tired mentally, not only physically — everything is coming from your head,” he said. “The way you prepare yourself is how you’re going to play.
“I didn’t say that we are tired. But you can be. Everyone here is professional and has a lot of experience. The reaction in the second half is how we should react in this kind of situation. We cannot give up. We have to fight until the end.”