Pep Guardiola admitted he was unaware of Riyad Mahrez’s dreadful penalty record after the battle between Liverpool and Manchester City ended in stalemate.
The Algeria forward had been a peripheral figure in a game of few chances – he, ironically, had come closest to breaking the deadlock with a second half shot that Liverpool keeper Alisson saved – but he was propelled into the spotlight in the 85th minute.
Guardiola, who had substituted regular penalty taker Sergio Aguero, was adamant that Mahrez should be given the responsibility but he ended up clasping his hands in his head after the shot from 12 yards missed the top corner by yards.
Mahrez has missed five of his last eight penalties – the last of which was for Leicester against Manchester City in May 2017 – but Guardiola seemingly had no idea about that record even though Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus wanted to step up.
In an exchange with Sky, Guardiola said: ‘He (Mahrez) had the courage to hit the penalty. In the training session, he shoots perfect penalties.
‘In the end, ok, it sometimes happens. In the end it is what it is.’
Pressed further, he said: ‘Well the taker is Sergio, he was not there, but we practice, that sometimes happens. We had our chances in the last minutes to win the game but we miss it. We will try to do better.’
The penalty was conceded by Virgil Van Dijk, who mistimed his attempt to tackle substitute Leroy Sane.
The Holland defender, who has been struggling with a rib injury, had no arguments about referee Martin Atkinson’s decision and accepted the tackle was naïve.
Van Dijk said: ‘It was not smart to dive in there, it was a penalty. I said it to the referee as well, it should have happened, but obviously very happy that we didn’t concede.
‘I watched it because I wanted to get the rebound but I was very happy that it didn’t go in.
‘I think they did well, we did well, up until the penalty moment. It was great game to play, unlucky that we didn’t score, unlucky that we didn’t concede as well.’
An international break now beckons and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp bemoaned its timing – and the demands it is placing on players.
Klopp said: ‘Now the players go off and play the Nations League which is the most senseless competition in the world.
‘We have to start thinking about the players. You have to call the manager of any country and say can you leave players out and he says I am under pressure as well.