Pep Guardiola made no effort to hide his irritation after Manchester City were denied a penalty in their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.

City have been on the receiving end of some tough VAR calls this campaign, most notably in a 2-2 draw with Tottenham in August when Gabriel Jesus' stoppage-time goal was ruled out for what appeared to be an accidental handball by Aymeric Laporte.

The video review system did not help City at Selhurst Park, with the assistant referee deeming Anthony Taylor's decision not to award the visitors a penalty for what seemed to be a blatant push on Kevin De Bruyne by Wilfried Zaha was correct.

Though the decision did not cost City, who missed several chances to further the lead handed to them by Jesus and David Silva, Guardiola was left furious.

"It's diving. It's diving, it's diving," Guardiola, who also referred to a similar incident in a match against Bournemouth earlier in the campaign, sarcastically told a news conference when asked if his team should have had a penalty.

"Every weekend it is always diving. [Like at] Bournemouth. But against Tottenham it was hands, real hands in the 94th minute. It's diving again.

"Of course, I am [frustrated]. Next question."

With Nicolas Otamendi injured and John Stones not fit enough to start, Guardiola named midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri as his centre-back pairing.

"Thank you so much to both of them," Guardiola said.

"It is not easy playing in different positions against the strikers Palace have; Zaha, [Jordan] Ayew, [Christian] Benteke and [Andros] Townsend at the end, they did really well."

At the other end of the pitch, Guardiola elected to start Jesus over Sergio Aguero, with the Brazilian's goal taking him onto 50 for City.

Jesus has now scored in each of his past seven starts in all competitions and Guardiola insisted he is delighted with the performances of his strikers.

"I'm not going to talk about how important Sergio is for our club, he is so important," Guardiola added.

"Gabriel, he came back from Brazil, he had rhythm. Sergio was 10 days away without training, but both are important. When Sergio plays he is at a good level and when Gabriel plays he is at a good level, after that I will take a decision."

Gabriel Jesus joined an illustrious list of players after scoring his 50th Manchester City goal in the Premier League champions' 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.

Jesus sent a glancing header in off the post to put City ahead 39 minutes into Saturday's encounter at Selhurst Park.

David Silva doubled City's advantage with a wonderful volley two minutes later as Pep Guardiola's side moved to within five points of league leaders Liverpool.

With his goal, Jesus brought up the milestone of 50 in all competitions for City, having joined the club in January 2017.

The 22-year-old also became the seventh player to achieve the feat while playing for Guardiola, joining Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski, along with City team-mates Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling.

Jesus is only eight behind Pedro, but Messi leads the way with an incredible 211 goals during four seasons under Guardiola at Barca.

"I'm very happy, you know, because last season I had a difficult start to the season," Jesus, who has now scored in each of his last seven starts for City, told Sky Sports.

"This season is going to be different for me. I worked hard as well. I focus on the goal all the time and I think that's why I score a lot."

1. Lionel Messi, Barcelona - 211

2. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City - 103

3. Thomas Muller, Bayern Munich - 79

4. Raheem Sterling, Manchester City; Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich - both 67

6. Pedro, Barcelona - 58

7. Gabriel Jesus, Manchester City - 50

Bernardo Silva had just set up the opening goal for Manchester City with a sumptuous cross – a suggestion that last season's form might be starting to return.

But this was no time for the Portugal playmaker to rest on his laurels and he set about harassing Crystal Palace left-winger Jeffrey Schlupp, whose pass towards the danger zone where specialist centre-backs should reside was intercepted.

Rodri's outing in the heart of the City defence was unexpected and frequently uneasy during the early stages at Selhurst Park. A slip momentarily left Wilfried Zaha unattended before a rushed, hacked clearance went unpunished.

Pep Guardiola deployed his two defensive midfield commanders. Rodri and Fernandinho, in defence due to Nicolas Otamendi joining Aymeric Laporte in the treatment room and John Stones not yet being match fit following an ailment of his own. City entered the field eight points behind Liverpool in the title race, with the decision not to replace Vincent Kompany starting to look season defining.

But if being the last line of protection against attacks does not come naturally to Rodri, he specialises in starting them. His interception from Schlupp doubled as an expertly cushioned pass to David Silva and City were away.

Kompany's successor as club captain deposited the ball at Kevin De Bruyne's feet in unfussy, one-touch fashion. Where the 2-0 loss to Wolves played out under a fug of doubt and laboured decision making, the whirring cogs of Guardiola's machine were clicking into place.

De Bruyne promptly pushed down the accelerator, powering through midfield. The Belgium star, who did not start either of City's league defeats in the opening eight games, had already proved a menace to Palace. His twinkling triangle on the right flank alongside Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo providing a persistent first half threat.

A great gift of De Bruyne's, a player on record as saying her prefers assists to goals, is he knows when to slip from leading man to supporting character. He found the opening goalscorer Gabriel Jesus.

The Brazil striker's scruffy diving header a little over a minute earlier was his fifth in as many starts for City this season. But the presence on the bench of club-record goalscorer Sergio Aguero – a man not so clinical behind the wheel on the road to training going off this week's evidence – means Jesus must always strive, always prove himself and always make the decision to please his manager.

A pass to the buccaneering Benjamin Mendy was just that. Fit again, for now, the left-back and his ravaged knees provides Guardiola with an extra dimension he will need if a third Premier League title in succession can be achieved despite early arrears.

Mendy's touch was heavy but he was fortunate to see the ball fall to Raheem Sterling, Manchester City's sure thing.

Goals 12 and 13 of the season for club and country came as England routed Bulgaria in midweek, Sterling revelling in tormenting those who send vile abuse his way.

An inspirational figure with improvement still in him – as evidenced by a couple of second-half attempts against Palace – Sterling's chipped pass over the top of the home defence was a string on his bow drawing the sweetest sound.

It was a pass worthy of David Silva, who on this occasion watched the whole picture unfold and found himself on the end of it. For all their discomfort over the early weeks of this campaign, operating without their long-time creator and magician will really sting City this time next year.

His clinical over-the-shoulder volley through Wayne Hennessey's legs was equal to many of his finest moments over a wonderful decade in the Premier League and crowned a little masterpiece. 2-0 was enough for the three points.

Second-half wastefulness and Ederson's athletic stops from Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha showed City will have to be sharper in their next Premier League away game. That's at Anfield next month, but after talking about putting his players in the fridge over Christmas, Guardiola will have seen enough in a cool, calculated gem of a goal to suggest there is life in this title race.

Pep Guardiola thinks Manchester City can still be more clinical, despite seeing his side produce a largely comfortable 2-0 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Gabriel Jesus and David Silva scored within 93 seconds of one another with the first half drawing to a close at Selhurst Park, the second a particularly fine effort as Raheem Sterling producied a memorable assist.

In truth, City might have been far more comfortable winners, with Sterling, Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne guilty of missing presentable second-half chances.

"We enjoyed the second goal - it was nice. But in the Premier League we have to score the third and fourth because it was difficult in the end with the pressure," Guardiola told BBC Sport.

"If [Christian] Benteke scores to make it 2-1, then it's difficult. The only problem is we could not score the third one. We deserved it but have to be more clinical."

City produced a fine riposte to a 2-0 defeat at home to Wolves prior to the international break to cut the gap to Liverpool to five points ahead of the unbeaten Premier League leaders' trip to Manchester United on Sunday.

Guardiola hopes the victory is the start of another run for his defending champions.

"Hopefully we can start from here and continue our good performance," he added. "Their keeper made a lot of saves but hopefully we can be more clinical."

City started the match with a makeshift centre-back pairing of Fernandinho and Rodri, who performed well at the heart of the visitors' defence.

He said: "Our build-up was quicker because they have more intelligence and they pass the ball so well because they are central midfielders.

"The season is too long, everybody is going to play. It's another option we have."

Roy Hodgson had no qualms over the result but rued the fact Palace conceded the goals in such quick succession.

"I thought they worked unbelievably hard, we came across a Man City side in top form, I thought their pressure was excellent they gave us literally no time on the ball whatsoever," he said.

"It was unlucky the two goals came so close after the other, had we got in 1-0, who knows? I've no complaints over the result. 

"I'm proud of the way we kept fighting, we never dropped the heads or gave up and could have come up with a goal on our sheet."

Benteke almost brought Palace back into the game with his first touch, but saw his thumping header brilliantly tipped on to the bar by Ederson as his wait for a maiden Palace goal of the campaign continued.

"It would have been a great moment for him. It was such a good header and I don't know how the keeper kept it out," Hodgson added.

"I was thinking, 'Oh great, Christian's got off the mark with a great goal against the champions'. But hopefully he can still take confidence from that and take that into the next games."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has backed Jose Mourinho to prove a success in his next position, but the ex-Barcelona striker remains less enamoured with Pep Guardiola.

Mourinho and Ibrahimovic forged a strong bond during spells together at Inter and Manchester United.

The divisive former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss has not held a managerial job since parting ways with United in December 2018 but appears to be edging closer to a coaching comeback.

Mourinho recently rejected the chance to hold talks with Lyon as he "has already chosen another club," the Ligue 1 side's president, Jean-Michel Aulas, said earlier this month.

Ibrahimovic is adamant the Portuguese's next employers will enjoy the best of his abilities.

"He had an incredible impact on my career," the LA Galaxy striker told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He is still 'the Special One', a winner. I hope he will back on a bench soon and I am sure he will start winning immediately."

Guardiola, however, does not occupy the same place in Ibrahimovic's heart.

The pair shared a famously dysfunctional relationship over the course of the Swede's single season with Barca, which featured 16 LaLiga goals and a title triumph.

"We never had a direct confrontation because of him," Ibrahimovic said of Guardiola, who is now in charge of Manchester City.

"When we faced each other, he hid. He waited for me to leave and then left the dressing room. As a coach he is a phenomenon, but as a man..."

Pep Guardiola has a plan to make sure his Manchester City players cope with playing twice in less than 48 hours in December: "Go home, open the fridge and get inside."

The reigning champions have been dealt a tricky hand over the festive period following fixture changes for live television coverage, with their trip to Wolves now starting at 19:45 local time on December 27.

They then welcome Sheffield United to the Etihad Stadium on December 29, that game kicking off at 18:00, before a home match against Everton on January 1, 2020.

Asked what he can do to combat such a quick turnaround between travelling to Molineux and hosting the Blades before the turn of the year, Guardiola replied: "Players to the fridge. I'm not joking.

"Go home, open the fridge and get inside for 48 hours. See you at the Etihad Stadium [on December 29].

"When I open the fridge to make an omelette, maybe I can talk with my players. But apart from that, no way.

"It happened in my first season here. I think we played on December 31 at Anfield and then at home against Burnley [on January 2]."

Before needing to be concerned about Christmas plans, however, Guardiola and his squad must focus on closing the gap to a red-hot Liverpool side in the coming weeks.

After missing out by a solitary point in a thrilling title race in 2018-19, Jurgen Klopp's Reds have started the new Premier League season with eight successive wins.

City, in contrast, have suffered defeats to Norwich City and Wolves to sit eight points off the pace in second. However, Guardiola understands there is still a long way to go, particularly with Aymeric Laporte set to bolster the squad with a return from a knee injury early in 2020.

"For 11 years, no team in England has won back-to-back [titles]. It is difficult, of course it is," the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss told the media ahead of the trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

"But you have a rival that is unstoppable right now. Eight games, eight wins. We lost games, but in Spain the big clubs lost games, in Italy the big clubs lost games, here we are facing one team who are champions of Europe and didn't lose one game.

"It's difficult. In some games we could win but we didn't win. Our mistakes punished us a lot. During the season there are ups and downs. We try to get better and improve.

"From tomorrow [Saturday] and in the Champions League, we try to make an incredible step forward, to win the game against Atalanta [on Tuesday], then in February Laporte will be back, most of the players will be back.

"We will see what happens in the later stages. Normally, when you win what we have won the last two seasons and you arrive in March and April being there, after that it's more difficult to drop points. But, in the earliest stages of the season, sometimes it's normal."

Pep Guardiola admitted "the broadcasters are the bosses" in response to Manchester City's rearranged festive fixture list - but again called for players to receive greater protection amid punishing schedules.

City were initially set to travel to Wolves on Boxing Day but that game has been pushed back by 24 hours for live coverage, with the Sheffield United home game moved to December 29.

Still, they have less than 48 hours of rest between those two fixtures - with the reigning Premier League champions then starting 2020 by hosting Everton on January 1.

While a fan of playing during the Christmas period, a custom that he has become used to since moving to England, Guardiola fears the desire to squeeze in so many matches is a major concern.

He used the example of Neymar - who suffered a hamstring injury while playing for Brazil in a friendly against Nigeria last week, ruling him out for up to four weeks - as an example of the risks of playing too often.

Asked for his thoughts about City's fixture changes announced this week, Guardiola told the media: "It is what it is. Since I came here, every season it happened the same.

"The broadcasters are the bosses in this situation. I love to play Boxing Day and winter time when everybody stops, when families and kids go the stadiums and enjoy the games. I like it.

"The problem is the same. So now Neymar is injured again, but they travel for friendly games in Nigeria or Abu Dhabi, or wherever far away, then come back.

"We don't protect the players – the system doesn't protect them. It's too much. Honestly, it's too much."

Guardiola was speaking ahead of Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace - a game that could see both Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones return from injury.

While stopping short of confirming the duo will be available to feature at Selhurst Park, the City boss was upbeat over their outlook.

"Some of them are better. Kevin is back and John trained in the last two days and is good," he said. "[Benjamin] Mendy as well, maybe later, but as well."

Sergio Aguero was involved in a minor car crash in midweek, but Guardiola had positive news on the striker's status: "He is fine. The car is not fine."

Manchester City's title defence has not started according to plan, with the champions already trailing Liverpool by eight points.

Jurgen Klopp's side have won eight from eight in the Premier League, while City headed into the international break on the back of a surprise home defeat to Wolves.

For Pep Guardiola, City's defence has to be a huge concern, even though the former Barcelona boss has insisted the club will not be looking to replace the injured Aymeric Laporte in January.

Laporte is set to miss the majority of the season after sustaining an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury in August, while Vincent Kompany has left a sizeable void in City's defence.

Nicolas Otamendi has been largely unconvincing, while John Stones has his own injury problems and Fernandinho – arguably the Premier League's best defensive midfielder – has had to fill in at the back.

Ahead of Saturday's trip to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace, we use Opta data to assess how Guardiola can patch up City's struggling defence.

 

RELIANCE ON OTAMENDI A CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Guardiola has not been helped by a spate of bad luck with injuries, especially with Laporte, who has been mightily impressive since his arrival from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018.

Stones, meanwhile, has been in and out of the side due to both injuries and form, with Kompany preferred for the run-in last season. Otamendi looked set to join Kompany in leaving the club in the off season, though has been a mainstay of City's back line, making seven league appearances and two more in the Champions League. 

The Argentine does boast a passing accuracy of 92.52 per cent, which is higher than Fernandinho or Laporte, while he has also lost possession 148 times fewer than the Frenchman.

While Otamendi has only featured in 25 Premier League matches since the start of last season, he does have a higher tackle, duel and aerial duel success rate than Laporte and only conceded 16 fouls.

However, the former Valencia man showed clear weaknesses in the defeat to Wolves, recklessly lunging in on Raul Jimenez in the build-up to the opener, while it was his mistake at Carrow Road which led to Norwich City's third goal in a 3-2 win for the Canaries.

Of the players who have played at the back for City since the start of 2018-19, only Otamendi (2) has made errors which directly resulted in a goal.

KOMPANY'S IMPACT UNDERESTIMATED?

City reportedly moved for Harry Maguire in the off season, only to baulk at Leicester City's asking price, which was eventually paid by cross-city rivals Manchester United.

However, the decision not to replace inspirational former captain Kompany, who scored a stunning goal against Leicester as he led City to the title last term, seemed a risky one.

City did not lose a single game in all competitions last season in which Kompany started, with the Belgian having been named in 13 Premier League line ups.

Kompany played 1,223 minutes in the top flight last term, making no errors resulting in a shot at goal, while managing an impressive pass accuracy of 93.07% behind only Stones in terms of City's defenders.

The 33-year-old lost possession 93 times, though, perhaps due to a lack of pace, did concede 17 fouls – more than Otamendi or Stones despite playing fewer games.

He was dribbled past by an opponent on only one occasion and, from the 18 matches he started in all competitions last season, City claimed 17 wins, conceding just 12 goals.

SETTLE ON STONES UNTIL JANUARY

The simple answer to City's problems is likely to get Laporte back fit and firing as soon as possible, given they have an 82 per cent win percentage with the 25-year-old starting in the Premier League since the start of last season, compared to 75% without.

However, for now Guardiola must find a defensive pairing he can stick with until January. Fernandinho and Otamendi have featured in the last three league matches, but against Wolves their lack of pace was exposed.

Stones should soon return to action and, though the England international's form has been criticised, his statistics make for promising reading.

The former Everton man has a tackle success rate of 75%, higher than any of City's other centre-backs, and has conceded just six fouls since the start of 2018-19.

If Stones can stay fit, he should be City's first-choice centre-back until the new year, with Otamendi and Fernandinho vying for the other spot.

Rodri says "tactical fouls" are among the aspects of football he is learning since signing for Manchester City.

The midfielder, who joined from Atletico Madrid in July, has appeared in all eight Premier League games for Pep Guardiola's side this term so far.

Guardiola last year issued a strong rebuttal to suggestions from ex-Manchester United captain Gary Neville that City deliberately commit fouls to break up play.

"We try to play, of course sometimes we make fouls. Never my teams are focused on making something wrong for the opponents," said Guardiola.

"We try to attack, to play our game but never to do that to avoid what they do. It's never happened in my career and never will happen in my career because I understand the game in a different approach."

After City beat West Ham 5-0 in August, the club's former manager Manuel Pellegrini highlighted the number of fouls committed by Guardiola's team.

And Rodri confirmed he has been working on 'tactical fouls', as well as other aspects to playing a new position, since swapping Madrid for Manchester.

"I think it's a big challenge for me because I never used to play this position particularly," Rodri said to ESPN FC. "I didn't have this exact role in the team.

"We have lots of offensive players and many other teams try to counter-attack you and a lot of the time you're alone but it's good for me.

"I am learning new things, how to go, when to stay, when I have to do a tactical foul, when I have to jump.

"It's good for me to learn these things. And for the team it's good because we need those offensive players to be able to play our game."

Defeats to Norwich City and Wolves have left City eight points behind Liverpool, who have a 100 per cent Premier League record, in the table.

With neighbours Manchester United struggling, Rodri was asked if Jurgen Klopp's Reds should now be considered City's main rivals.

"I don't know, I had never been in the city before, I don't know how people in the city feel," he said, City having pipped Liverpool to the title by a point last season.

"But the team to beat is Liverpool now and that has been seen the last two seasons. They are the champions of Europe so everyone wants to beat them, not just us.

"They're a great team, they have improved a lot of things, they're a very good team, and they're the best team in England and in Europe."

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola insists he would not consider selling midfielder Phil Foden for €500m (£460m) because he is the only player at the could who cannot be sold "under any circumstances".

Foden, 19, has long been championed as a star of the future for City and England, having been around Guardiola's first-team squad for almost three years already.

He played named player of the tournament after England's Under-17 World Cup success in 2017 and has steadily become a more prominent player in City's senior squad, playing 26 matches across all competitions last season.

The midfielder has featured for just 10 minutes in the Premier League this term, sparking suggestions he is being held back by City.

But, with David Silva set to leave the club when his contract expires next year, Guardiola is convinced Foden will take over from the former Spain international.

"He [Foden] is the only player that can’t be sold under any circumstances — the only one. Not even for €500m," Guardiola says in the new book Pep's City: The Making of a Superteam, which was written by Spanish journalists Pol Ballus and Lu Martin and is being serialised by in The Sun.

"Phil's going nowhere — Phil is City. We won't be signing anyone else for that position. When David Silva leaves, we know exactly who our new magician will be.

"He's grown up with us. He's one of us and he's going to be brilliant — one of the Premier League's best. One thing is clear, Foden has a place in City's first-team.

"I'd be interested to see if a different manager would have given him his chance to develop or loan him out.

"I don't like leaving him out of certain games, but I must think of the whole squad. Phil understands that."

Lionel Messi admitted he wanted to leave Barcelona in order to get out of Spain after authorities investigated him for tax fraud.

The Argentina star and his father were found guilty of evading tax on income from image rights by a Catalonian court in 2016 and were sentenced to 21 months in prison, although this was changed to a fine a year later.

Messi has now revealed he felt so "mistreated" during the investigation that he considered quitting Barcelona so he could get out of the country, but he thinks other clubs were put off making official offers as they knew he was at heart a one-club man.

"In the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, I had a tough time," Messi told RAC1. "Yes, for the issue with the Hacienda [Spain's state tax agency]. It was really difficult for me and my family because people didn't really know what was happening. They heard things and they opined. A part of the press did the same, too.

"I think I was the first [footballer to be investigated by the Hacienda] and for that reason it was all so hard. My kids were little.

"At that time, I honestly thought about leaving. Not because I wanted to leave Barca, but to leave Spain because I felt mistreated and I didn't want to be here. I had many doors open but never anything official because everyone knew my desire was to continue but it was something which went beyond my feelings towards Barca."

Question marks over Messi's future appeared again this September when he told Sport that, although he did not want to leave Camp Nou, he was eager to be part of a "winning team".

It was suggested the 32-year-old was referring to recent Champions League frustrations, with Barca's last triumph coming in 2015 and their past two campaigns ending in humiliating defeats to Roma and Liverpool.

However, Messi has made it clear he wants to end his career with Barcelona and may even pass on his dream of playing for boyhood club Newell's Old Boys in Argentina before he retires as he does not want to uproot his family.

"It's true we struggled to get started this season, but we have a good squad with great players to be able to win everything," Messi said.

"We are here to win and to win titles. In recent years we have been close. In the last two years, it was our fault for the way we got knocked out. It wasn't the project or the coach. We have a great squad to be able to win everything.

"And obviously, if they want me, I'm delighted [to stay]. I will repeat: my idea is always to stay here. My idea and my family's idea is to end my career here."

He added that he has "always dreamed" of playing for Newell's.

"But sometimes you have to think more about the family than what you want," Messi said. "The family is the most important thing."

Messi also hopes to see former team-mate Xavi return to Barca as a coach, even if that happens after he has retired. Xavi is currently coaching Qatari side Al Sadd.

"He's in training and at some point he'll come back here," Messi added. "I have a feeling he'll be similar to [Pep] Guardiola. I don't know if I'll experience it as a player, of course."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said "there are a lot of games to go" after his side handed the Premier League title advantage to Liverpool with a shock home defeat to Wolves.

The Reds – last season's runners-up behind City – opened up an eight-point lead over Guardiola's men on Saturday with a last-gasp win over Leicester City.

City were unable to bridge that gap at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, however, with two late Adama Traore goals giving Wolves a surprise, but thoroughly deserved, three points.

The margin of victory could have been even greater had Nuno Espirito Santo's side taken advantage of a host of opportunities handed to them in the first half by City's porous defence.

Guardiola defended his players, however, and believes there is plenty of time left in the campaign for them to claw their way back into contention for a third consecutive Premier League triumph.

"Come on guys, there are a lot of games to go," he told a media conference. "We lost to a good team, who were really organised, so strong in the air and so fast in the counter attack.

"I know these guys [his players]. Still they are incredibly involved and can do it. What happened, happened. Most of the teams who won [the Premier League] in the past, the year after, don't win.

"Today, we were not at our usual level. The previous games were good, but the distance is big. I know that. Liverpool is not dropping points. But we are in October; there is still a lot of games and competitions."

The continued absence of Aymeric Laporte and John Stones meant Guardiola was once again forced into fielding Nicolas Otamendi and midfielder Fernandinho in central defence.

They were caught out on a number of occasions by Wolves' incisive counter-attacking moves, while Otamendi was guilty of a host of misplaced passes and errant challenges throughout the 90 minutes.

Guardiola defended the pair, though, and stated they were not helped by the carelessness of the players in front of them.

"They were quite good," he said. "They suffered because we lost the position in front of them. No central defenders can defend the kind of balls we lose there. They were good."

Adama Traore's two-goal haul in Wolves' shock victory over Manchester City was a reward for playing "to the limit of his strengths", according to Nuno Espirito Santo.

Wolves defended stoically at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday and consistently threatened on the counter-attack, though the game remained goalless at half-time.

City dominated possession after the restart but were unable to find a breakthrough and Traore punished them on the break in the 80th minute before completing a 2-0 triumph in stoppage time.

Traore played most of the game at right wing-back but was moved up front late on and used his pace to put the hosts' makeshift defence to the sword.

"He played good. He went to the limit of his strengths. He did very well. Not only him, all the players did well. We have to congratulate them today, they were fantastic," said Nuno, who steered his team to a 1-0 win at Besiktas in the Europa League on Thursday.

"I am very, very proud, it was a very good performance [by the team]. More than the performance was the work of the players, they ran.

"It's very difficult to play against City, they are so good, they move the ball so fast, it requires a lot of high-speed running, so the boys worked very hard.

"I'm happy and I'm satisfied because this is how we work. All the games we've had, we always compete under our game plan. Sometimes we perform better than others, but the motivation to compete and prepare for the game is always there.

"This is what makes me more proud, having a fantastic group of players that want to grow and believe in the way we work. Now we have the challenge to sustain this level of performance, this is the hardest part of football."

Traore, who showed surprising composure to get on the scoreboard for the first time since September 2018, praised Nuno's approach to the game.

"The plan always works with the manager. I believe in him and how he works, and he believes in me and that is important," the former Barcelona youngster told beIN SPORTS.

"I've been playing in different positions and today I played in right wing-back and striker. Whatever the position I can adapt my quality there. [Nuno] makes me a better player.

"I think everyone on the pitch worked so hard, so I'm happy for everyone."

With eight games gone, reigning Premier League champions Manchester City are eight points adrift of early pacesetters Liverpool following a shock 2-0 loss to Wolves on Sunday.

City's start to 2019-20 has been hindered by a series of defensive injuries. Their best centre-back, Aymeric Laporte, is a long-term absentee, while Benjamin Mendy joined John Stones as a hamstring injury victim this weekend.

Add the fact they failed to replace long-serving captain Vincent Kompany in the transfer window and it is no surprise their defence is in dire straits.

The paucity of first-team options at the back is making manager Pep Guardiola go against his instincts.

Prior to a 2-2 draw against Tottenham in August, a match for which Laporte was available, Guardiola was asked about the possibility of deploying club-record signing Rodri and Fernandinho together in defensive midfield for crunch matches.

"I don't believe in football putting these two guys [in front of the defence] gives you more security for the team," said Guardiola. "I've never believed in my life that by putting in more defensive holding midfielders you defend better.

"You play better, especially with the ball, when everybody commits and everybody fights without the ball. So when we defend better it's because there are 11 reasons. You have to find the balance."

Guardiola has been forced to use his first-choice holding midfielder Fernandinho as a centre-back, hastening a planned transition for the 34-year-old and meaning City they are without the man they need screening a makeshift back four.

Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri sat in front of the defence on Sunday and proved Guardiola right; two holding midfielders does not always provide greater security.

City were vulnerable to the break. A stray pass from Riyad Mahrez in the 19th minute let Raul Jimenez in and only a fine recovering tackle from Fernandinho kept him at bay, the Brazilian somehow managing to block Patrick Cutrone's follow-up while down on the deck too.

The champions' case was not aided by Nicolas Otamendi. In times like these, what Guardiola needs most is a competent performance from his only fit centre-back. The Argentine failed to rise to the occasion.

Otamendi's stray pass on halfway let Wolves break again, with Fernandinho just doing enough to put Jimenez off without conceding a penalty when the Mexican was one-on-one with Ederson.

Wolves were at the door, and City were leaving it wide open.

It perhaps did not help that Guardiola deployed Joao Cancelo, a player far more familiar with the right side of the back four, at left-back while Oleksandr Zinchenko and Angelino started on the bench.

Zinchenko was sent on at the conclusion of a lacklustre first half, but City remained without any drive from midfield or a coherent attack. They sent in 29 crosses from open play – since the start of last season the only times they attempted more in the Premier League was during similar shock defeats to Norwich City (31) and Crystal Palace (30).

David Silva rattled the crossbar from a free-kick in City's best chance before Cancelo ceded possession high up the pitch and Wolves surged clear. Jimenez negotiated a flailing and ineffective Otamendi challenge and squared for Adama Traore to slot an uncharacteristically composed finish beyond Ederson.

Another rapid break saw a disjointed City carved apart with ease and Traore complete the scoring in the fourth added minute.

The international break has arrived at a good time for City and Guardiola – with Stones and the influential Kevin De Bruyne expected to be back when they resume at Crystal Palace on October 19 – although the chance to bolster their centre-back options in the January transfer window may be their best opportunity to set things straight.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said his side were way off their best as they slipped to a shock 2-0 home defeat to Wolves on Sunday.

Adama Traore's two breakaway goals in the final 10 minutes mean the Premier League champions remain eight points adrift of leaders Liverpool after the Reds' last-gasp winner against Leicester City on Saturday.

Wolves squandered a host of earlier opportunities to score before Traore's late double, and Guardiola – whose side have now lost two of their eight league games this season – concedes it was a "bad day" for the club.

"We started decent, quite well, but conceded counter-attacks," he told BBC Sport. "We were not at our best. We had chances to score but it was a bad day and lost the game.

"We did not make good decisions; we had problems in that sense. We are a team that plays a specific way, but it is a bad day. That happens sometimes.  Now we have the international break, then we can come back and go to the other games."

Kyle Walker was substituted at half-time, with Guardiola revealing the defender has struggled after an infection this week.

"Kyle did not feel good," Guardiola confirmed. "He did not train well after an infection and we had to change him."

City return to action after the international break on October 19 with a visit to high-flying Crystal Palace.

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