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Guardiola defends ‘keeper Bravo after derby jitters

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Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2nd L) shoots past City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to score their first goal during the English Premier League derby match at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on September 10, 2016 © AFP / Oli Scarff

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Sep 10 – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola spoke out in defence of Claudio Bravo after his new goalkeeper’s error-strewn debut in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Manchester United.

First-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho gave City victory, but a blunder by Bravo, who spilled a high ball, allowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic to reduce the arrears.

The former Barcelona goalkeeper was also fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty after he overran the ball and lunged in on Wayne Rooney, but Guardiola expressed satisfaction with his display.

“We played good in the first half because of Claudio,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach told the BBC at Old Trafford.

“I like the keepers to attack the ball and after what happened (with Ibrahimovic’s goal), the second half he continued to play and that’s a good thing about his personality.”

Guardiola brought Bravo to the club after sidelining previous first-choice goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has joined Torino on loan.

Manchester City midfielder David Silva (R) hugs teammate Kevin De Bruyne as goalkeeper Claudio Bravo joins them after the English Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on September 10, 2016 © AFP / Oli Scarff

Guardiola explained the move by emphasising the importance of having a goalkeeper who is comfortable with the ball at his feet and he said Bravo’s ball-playing ability would prove invaluable.

“Yes, it can be too risky. If you lose the ball they will score. But you can control the game,” he said.

“Until my last day in England I will try to play with the ball as much as possible. I know it’s impossible for 90 minutes, but I’m sorry, I will not negotiate that.”

De Bruyne gave City reward for a dominant start by breaking the deadlock in the 15th minute, beating Daley Blind to Iheanacho’s flick-on and coolly finding the bottom-left corner.

Iheanacho tapped in from close range after De Bruyne had hit the post, before Ibrahimovic halved City’s lead in the 42nd minute.

Bravo’s contentious challenge on Rooney occurred 11 minutes into the second half and left the United captain writhing in pain inside the City area.

United manager Jose Mourinho said referee Mark Clattenburg should have awarded penalties for both that incident and an alleged handball by City centre-back Nicolas Otamendi.

“Mark made two big mistakes,” he said. “Claudio Bravo is a penalty and a red card.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and his players celebrate after the English Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England, on September 10, 2016 © AFP / Oli Scarff

“If one of my players do that in the middle of the park — if (Marouane) Fellaini or Rooney do that in the middle of the park — it’s a red card and a free-kick.

“In the box it is more difficult to give and he didn’t want to give it.”

Iheanacho, meanwhile, described his match-winning goal as a “dream come true”.

“It means a whole lot to me,” the 19-year-old Nigerian striker, who deputised for the suspended Sergio Aguero, told Sky Sports.

“It’s a dream come true to play in the Manchester derby and score the winning goal.”

The result prolonged City’s perfect start to the Premier League season and ended United’s 100 percent record.

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