The Brazilian scored the only goal to sink Chelsea at Stamford Bridge
Pep Guardiola hailed matchwinner Gabriel Jesus as one of his best signings for Cidade de Manchester after the Brazil forward netted the only goal in City’s 1-0 win at Liga Premiada title rivals Chelsea.
Thomas Tuchel sent the Blues out to stifle Guardiola’s side, deploying an extra man in midfield. Contudo, a 3-5-2 formation backfired as Chelsea struggled for creativity and the visitors deservedly swept to victory – for Guardiola to set a club-record 221st win as City manager.
Guardiola hailed Jesus for handling some rough treatment from Chelsea’s defence before responding in the ideal way, with the winning goal.
“Gabriel is one person or player who deserves the very best,” said Guardiola.
“He’s a guy who runs and works for everyone, and every time he scores I’m happiest man. He can play up front in all three positions and he does them all very well.
“We know from the past how aggressive Chelsea are in the duels. But you have to handle that, at this level.
“And Gabriel, he went down, but he got up – and got up to try again. And that’s why he’s one of the best signings we have made in this period together at City.”
City struck the first telling blow in a title race that harbours great promise, with Guardiola’s men, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool all looking strong.
Guardiola’s defending champions dismantled Chelsea in west London, avenging their 1-0 Champions League defeat to the Blues in May. That night in Porto Guardiola opted not to field a defensive midfielder, and paid the price. In the two sides’ very next meeting, Rodri filled that role with some aplomb, leaving Guardiola impressed.
Asked if selecting a specialist holding midfielder made the difference between defeat and victory against Chelsea, Guardiola replied: “Maybe that’s right.
“When we win the manager is a genius, when we lose he’s a failure – so I understand this business. Rodri was exceptional. He was in the right position, and he’s growing as a player.”
Chelsea boss Tuchel admitted his side came up well short against City, in effectively all departments.
“We played with a little bit of the mentality that we had something to lose, but we had nothing to lose here today,” said Tuchel.
“We decided for 3-5-2. I don’t think it’s a matter of structure, it’s a matter of decisions and adapting to the opponents’ spaces where you can find the spaces. We tried in a 3-2 in attack, I thought to have a bit of connection in the build-up.
“We are in it together, we win together and we lose together. I will also ask the question to myself, was it the right shape? But I’m not sure if the shape is decisive for the result.
“Nobody can deny we weren’t like ourselves today. We lacked belief and confidence in the situation to escape where it was possible to escape. And with every mistake we lost more and more confidence.”