Pep Guardiola admitted he felt “a bit guilty” after Manchester City failed to deliver a winning performance for their fans against Southampton on Saturday.
The champions were held to a frustrating goalless draw in front of a near-capacity and vociferous crowd, as Guardiola had called for, at the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola issued a rallying cry to supporters in midweek, stating his side would be tired after their Champions League game against RB Leipzig and would need their energy.
He said: “Always when the game is not good I feel bad for them. They come to see a show, to see a game and when it doesn’t happen I feel a bit guilty because we didn’t play good.”
Guardiola’s comments about supporters on Wednesday sparked a heated debate about attendances at the Etihad Stadium and upset some fans who felt their loyalty was being questioned.
The Spaniard insisted on Friday that had never been his intention and he reiterated that stance after the Southampton game.
He said: “I didn’t say anything wrong after Leipzig. I said we had an incredibly tough game, had an incredibly tough game against Southampton and we would need the support of our fans.
“I never complained about how many come or don’t come. I have never thought this in my life. I don’t know why people are asking me this question. I am grateful even if 85 or 100 people come.”
In terms of the game itself, City were perhaps as tired as Guardiola suggested they would be.
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) September 18, 2021
They did not muster a shot on target until the 90th minute and escaped a big scare when referee Jon Moss overturned decisions to award Southampton a penalty and send off Kyle Walker after a VAR review.
Guardiola claimed he did not see the Walker incident but admitted his side, who did have a last-gasp Raheem Sterling winner ruled out for offside by VAR, were not on song.
He said: “We were not good in our build-up. We lost simple balls in our process because we were not clever and a little bit sloppy.
“That is why I have to compliment Southampton. We move forward.”
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl felt his side were unfortunate that the penalty decision was not allowed to stand after Walker appeared to bundle into the back of Adam Armstrong.
The Austrian was nevertheless proud of the resilient performance of the visitors.
He said: “We had the feeling it was not a clear wrong decision but when the referee thinks it is a clear wrong decision he has to overrule it. He did it. It is a pity for us but we have to accept it.
🗣 "Tactically it was a world-class performance."
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) September 18, 2021
“If we want to win here we have to have a perfect game and a perfect day. I think tactically we had a nearly perfect one but we needed a bit of luck to get such a penalty and this was not there.
“Everything was working fantastic. I must say I am very proud of what my team did today.”
Hasenhuttl admitted his heart was in his mouth after Sterling’s late strike but felt Saints deserved the point.
“We are always pushing out and I had the hope it was offside,” he said. “We deserved to get something today.”