Maurizio Sarri felt our opening goal altered the complexion of this evening’s game against Manchester City, and the Italian praised his side for their performance, particularly in the early part of the second half.
Goals either side of the break, from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz, ensured it was the Blues who came out on top, ending City’s unbeaten Premier League run in the process.
Sarri provided his assessment of the game and his team’s display.
‘We had Eden for the first time in that position [striker] and in the first 20 or 25 minutes we didn’t work well in the defensive movements in the opposition half, but fortunately we defended well in our half. We started to press better and after the first goal the game changed.
‘We played very well in the last few minutes of the first half, and the first 20 minutes of the second, and in the end we deserved to win.
‘We’re very happy with the win, we know it’s not easy to beat City in this moment. For me it’s not easy to win against Pep, as you know, so I’m very happy but now we need to find this kind of motivation and play with this level of determination and aggressivity in other matches, otherwise its useless winning matches like this.’
Sarri was asked if it was our plan to stand off City in the first half
‘No, we know the ball possession is usual for us, today it was a problem. We knew there would maybe be more space for counter attacks, but it wasn’t a total choice to defend in our half.’
He didn’t rule out playing with Hazard up front in the future
‘He had some problems at the beginning of the match but he was great in the second half. Maybe he deserved to score and I think he’s a very good option [in that position]. We will play like today in the future, for certain matches of course.’
The Italian was pleased with the performance of Kante
‘I think Kante scored by chance because they played very close to Jorginho, more than in the other matches. He defended very well and had some good counter attacks. Then he was in the box for the first goal, but today he played in the right position, very close to Jorginho. He played very well.’
Sarri also spoke about David Luiz, who was excellent throughout
‘I have to say I was very happy with him from the beginning. Of course there are matches like this one in which it’s easier to stay on the defensive line because the offensive movements are working very well, and there are matches when that’s difficult, like Tottenham, because the defensive phase of the team is a disaster. Today he played a really good match.’
Alvaro Morata wasn’t part of the matchday squad for today’s game, and Sarri explained why
‘The reason was clear; we played with Hazard as a striker and so if we had to change something there was Giroud. I think it was useless to have two strikers on the bench, I prefer more midfielders because today I was in trouble with wingers, so the only option was Loftus-Cheek.’
The Blues boss responded to a question about the gap between ourselves and City
‘I think it’s impossible to close the gap in one season. You can play one match but in a competition of 10 months it’s very difficult. I think they are the best team in Europe. We won today but we have to say we were a bit lucky in the first 25 because they could have scored.
‘I’m very happy with the win because it’s very diff to win against Guardiola’s team. I know they are a step ahead, we have to work to cover the gap. We will try and I’m very happy.’