Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola apologised for his team’s part in the mass brawl that resulted in Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho being sent off at the end of their 3-1 defeat by Chelsea – but defended both players.
Chelsea had fought back from 1-0 down to secure an eighth straight win that moved them four points clear at the top of the Premier League, and City’s frustrations boiled over in injury time.
Aguero was dismissed for his wild lunge on Chelsea defender David Luiz, with team-mate Fernandinho also shown a red card for clashing with Cesc Fabregas in the melee that followed.
“It is a pity the game finished like this,” Guardiola said afterwards. “I don’t like that and I apologise for what happened.
“I don’t think Aguero’s challenge is intentional. Both players were strong, that is all.
“Then Fernandinho went over to defend his team-mate because of what the opponent did to Aguero.
“When (City winger) Nolito did that against Bournemouth, it was a red card for him and a three-game ban. That is why Fernandinho went to defend his team-mate, that is all.
“I have not spoken to him about it – if it is on TV, we will see about it.”
Fernandinho will be suspended for three matches and Aguero will face a four-game ban because he has already been sent off once for violent conduct this season – the retrospective red card he received for a challenge on West Ham defender Winston Reid in August.
The pair will miss City’s games against Leicester, Watford and Arsenal and, while Fernandinho can return at Hull on 26 December, Aguero will have to wait until City’s trip to Anfield to play Liverpool on New Year’s Eve.
Referee Anthony Taylor had angered City’s players and their fans with some of his earlier decisions, including a first-half challenge by Luiz on Aguero that went unpunished.
However, Guardiola refused to blame Taylor for the defeat, his first at Etihad Stadium since he took charge of City in the summer.
“We didn’t win because we missed a lot of chances, not because of the referee’s decisions,” the Spaniard added.
“I am proud of my team and how we played – I came here to try to play the way we played in this game.
“You have to remember who we were playing, and that we created more chances than we did in our last two games against Burnley and Crystal Palace, when we won.
“But in the boxes we are not strong enough. When the opportunities arrive, we have to score goals because when we don’t it is tough mentally for the players.
“It is a problem we have had all season. It is difficult for us to score goals and we concede them very easily.”
Chief football writer Phil McNulty:
It is unlikely either Manchester City or Chelsea have heard the last of a shameful conclusion to a high-class game of football as players and officials from both sides became embroiled in ugly scenes.
City’s frustration at what they believed was a series of injustices at the hands of referee Anthony Taylor boiled over in injury time as Aguero caught Luiz high and late, which happened after the Argentina striker clashed with the defender at a corner earlier.
Chelsea’s Nathaniel Chalobah joined in and was lucky not to see red, while Fernandinho was sent off for grabbing Fabregas.
Even then, Fernandinho had to be forced to leave the pitch and with the whole situation threatening to go completely out of control, it was fortunate referee Taylor was able to blow the final whistle seconds later.
It is hard to see how both clubs can escape censure for a failure to control their players.
Former Premier League striker Jason Roberts on Final Score:
The tackle from Aguero was absolutely outrageous. It’s exactly what you don’t want to see in football. It was the type of challenge that can break a leg. He’s absolutely done it on purpose.
Former Blackburn striker Chris Sutton on Match of the Day:
Aguero lost the plot. It’s as bad a tackle as you will see – I can’t ever remember seeing one as bad as that.
Alex Scott, Arsenal Ladies and England defender on Final Score:
The Football Association has to act. With Aguero, you know that players can get frustrated – but what he did you know you cannot do in football, no way. The thing is, it was such a superb game of football but such a bad ending.
Former England winger Chris Waddle on BBC Radio 5 live:
Chelsea were clinical and look so well-drilled and fresh. City lost their discipline at the end, which will disappoint Guardiola. And now Aguero will be banned – that will be massive.
December is now going to be tough for Manchester City.