Manuel Pellegrini remained defiant over his experimental team selection after Manchester City were thrashed 5-1 in the FA Cup fifth round at Chelsea.
Pellegrini pledged to play with a young team when the Stamford Bridge clash was moved to a Sunday kick-off for television coverage, shortening the recovery time before City’s Champions League round-of-16 first leg away at Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.
A line-up including six teenagers were level at half-time after French striker David Faupala, one of five full debutants, cancelled out Diego Costa’s opener.
But a Cesc Fabregas-inspired Chelsea made their experience and class tell after the break with unanswered goals from Willian, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and Bertrand Traore.
Willy Caballero saved a penalty from Oscar but the goalkeeper was poor elsewhere as City’s more seasoned players let down their youthful colleagues – centre-back Tosin Adarabioyo and midfielder Aleix Garcia a pair to make creditable first impressions alongside goalscorer Faupala.
“We were forced to do it, we couldn’t play another day and didn’t have any more fit players,” Pellegrini told BBC Sport.
“We knew it was a very difficult chance to carry on in the FA Cup. We cannot do anything more.
“Don’t change my words, if we play on Saturday it’s better for us because we have to play for England [in the Champions League] on Wednesday.
“We have six players injured so we can’t take risk of further injuries to players we have.
“We played against a very good team and that’s why they won.”
Pellegrini praised his players for their showing during the opening 45 minutes but acknowledged that the quickfire strikes from Willian and Cahill inside the opening eight minutes of the second half underlined the gulf in on-field knowhow.
“I feel we had a very good 45 minutes but in the five minutes after half-time we threw away the game,” he added.
“There was a counter-attack and set-pieces. Chelsea played well and could have scored more goals.”
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