Pep Guardiola credited debutant Claudio Bravo with producing “one of the best performances I’ve ever seen” despite errors from the goalkeeper putting Manchester City’s 2-1 derby victory over Manchester United in jeopardy.
City maintained their 100 per cent record to move three points clear of their neighbours at the top of the Premier League and looked on course to hand out a comprehensive beating when Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho struck during a first-half they dominated for long periods.
But Bravo collided with John Stones and fumbled a free-kick from deep, allowing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to reduce the arrears before the break.
And the 33-year-old continued to threaten to undermine his new team-mates’ efforts, most notably when a heavy touch forced him to make a dangerous tackle on United skipper Wayne Rooney inside his own penalty area.
But Guardiola praised Bravo’s continued willingness to take balls in to feet throughout the contest, using a post-match interview with Sky Sports to defend the player who has effectively ended the City career of crowd favourite and England number one Joe Hart.
“What Claudio did today was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.
“When you have the situation of the goal – and I like him to play in front – after that, he continued playing.
“For the other long balls, he goes out to pick them up. That means a lot to me, because the personality in football is that when you make a mistake it’s how you react to that mistake.
Of Ibrahimovic’s goal, he added: “It was unlucky, because Claudio was there. I think he contacts with Stones, sometimes that happens in football.
“I think it is more brilliant, the action from Ibrahimovic, than a mistake from Claudio.”
Guardiola was happy with City’s display during the first half, when De Bruyne’s attacking brilliance was a decisive factor, but he was left calling upon a higher power as his defence clung on after the interval.
“We are happy. I think the spectators enjoyed it because it was open until the end,” he told BBC Sport.
“First half we were better – in the second half it was difficult. We had counter attacks and we didn’t finish.
“We were not brilliant in that moment in the last part of the pitch. But we go to one of the best stadiums in the world and won the game.
“These guys have a heart – in the first half we won a lot of duels against a team physically stronger. In the second half, the long balls, you just pray because it’s almost impossible to control that.”
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