Pep Guardiola refused to be too downbeat after watching his Manchester City side lose to Leicester in the Community Shield at Wembley, and instead singled out young stars Cole Palmer and Sam Edozie for praise.
The Cityzens looked to be heading out for a penalty shootout against the Foxes, who beat them in the FA Cup final in the same stadium three months ago.
But a poor touch and rash challenge from Nathan Ake in the blink of an eye handed Leicester a penalty with a few minutes to go, and Kelechi Iheanacho slammed home the spot-kick to earn a 1-0 win over his former club.
After the game, Guardiola spoke to the club’s in-house media, remarking that he’d loved to have been won the game – but ultimately he was pleased with the display of his players despite the defeat, particularly academy graduates Palmer and Edozie.
“I would have loved to have won the game,” Guardiola said. “Congratulations to Leicester for the Community Shield victory. Our performance was really, really good, especially for this stage of the season and the way we played in the second half was so good.
“The game was well played. They had chances, we had chances and in the second we were so good. The courage of the young guys Sam and Cole and the control we had – they only had long balls in the second half.
“They are important players. What I like about them, – Cole was exceptional all game – but when they lost one ball, they tried and tried again.
“In the first half Pereira won the duels with Sam, because he is a top player, but in the second half Sam was better. They both like to dribble. They were both exceptional on a big stage at Wembley. They were so good. Congratulations to the Academy.
“They provide me with huge talents. They are working to provide me with good players and we are delighted. In general given the short preparation time we had, all the loan players, all the Academy players have been exceptional.”
Guardiola was also probed by ITV whether the lack of a recognised centre forward contributed to his side’s defeat, but he reaffirmed that he will ‘go without a striker’ if the club are unable to bring anybody in.
Harry Kane has been strongly linked with a move to the Etihad, but despite his desire to move, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is determined to keep hold of him at any cost.