First Team 10/03/2019

Gracia: “We Have Competed Really Well”

Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below.

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia commendably bit his tongue yet again on Saturday even though it must have been really tempting to embark on a rant about a key decision that went against his side.

The Head Coach was at his diplomatic best in the post-match press conference at the Etihad Stadium and preferred to let pundits, fans and the media talk fast and loose about what was a blatant offside goal by Raheem Sterling just after half-time with the match goalless.

“Everyone could see what happened,” he said. “This season I didn't criticise referees and I'm not going to do so today. In my opinion it’s clear. When the game is over I prefer I don't say anything [to the referee]. I only shake his hand.”

Gracia offered a little more insight into his true feelings about the incident when asked about the impending arrival of VAR.

“VAR will reduce the mistakes, but I’m sure there will be mistakes as well,” he said. “Today, in my opinion, it is clear. Sterling is in an offside position. It is clear he is offside by nearly two metres.

“He’s going to get the ball and the defender touches the ball but only because the striker is pressing him. I prefer not to speak too much as we’ve lost the game.”

Gracia found an ally in Pep Guardiola, the City coach who would rather take the lead in a game fair and square.

“I’m sorry if it is offside,” he said. “I apologise to Javi and the club if the first goal is offside. Some say it is, some say it isn’t. Next season, with VAR, that will not be a problem. It will be more fair.”

Guardiola and Gracia both know that City would probably have gone onto win the game regardless, but what Gracia is after is just a fair fight, an equal contest. The goal, just seconds after half-time, was a real kick in the teeth as the game plan had worked a treat up until then.

“We’ve competed well against a very good team,” he said. “In the first half we had a very good performance, better defensively because we were well organised. We didn't concede many chances and I think it was a good first half.

“In the second, the game changed after conceding the first goal. There were some moments when weren’t so focused and conceded two goals. It was then impossible to have the option to get any points.”

The Head Coach made seven changes for the game at the Etihad, leaving out Will Hughes, Roberto Pereyra and Adrian Mariappa altogether and putting Troy Deeney, Craig Cathcart, Jose Holebas and Gerard Deulofeu on the bench.

“All my decisions I always make focused on this game,” he said. “If I chose this team for this game, it’s because I thought we needed fresh legs to compete today, to run a lot to fight a lot. We have 26 available and all of them deserve to play.

“As you can see we have competed really well. It’s good for us to compete like we did today. We have eight games left and the FA Cup and this is the best news for us, to have 26 players ready to compete. I think if I have to make my decision again I do it the same way.”

First Team 10/03/2019

Highlights: Manchester City 3-1 Watford

See extended highlights of Watford's 3-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Premier League, where Gerard Deulofeu scored just 17 seconds after coming off the bench.