Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says playing football is best for Oleksandr Zinchenko after the Ukraine international led the visitors to victory in their FA fifth round clash Cup at Peterborough.
The full-back had the honor of leading the Premier League champions in a show of support against Russia invading his country.
Zinchenko was shown crying over support for Ukraine ahead of Saturday’s Premier League victory at Everton, where he was an unused substitute.
He played the full 90 minutes on Tuesday night as second-half efforts from Riyad Mahrez – his 19th of the campaign – and Jack Grealish’s first-ever FA Cup goal secured a 2-0 victory and a place in the quarter-finals. final.
Guardiola may have made six changes but his squad had 11 full internationals and he praised Fernandinho for his decision to hand the armband to Zinchenko.
“Our captain decided to give him the armband, to show how important the situation is,” he told ITV Sport ahead of the game. “We are all at the club behind this gesture and behind my captain, who represents his country.”
After Zinchenko’s name was cheered all around Weston Homes Stadium, he led City out as he and Posh captain Frankie Kent carried a Ukrainian flag.
“It’s not an easy time”
Asked after the game about Zinchenko, Guardiola replied: “Yes, of course it’s not an easy time for Alex.
“He didn’t just [support from our fans]but all over the world, in the UK, about this insane situation we are living in at the moment.
“Playing football is the best way for him. We are through to the next round and it was a good night knowing how difficult the FA Cup is away.
“They started much better than us in the second half but the rest, we controlled the difficult conditions on the pitch, we adapted well and in the end the quality of the players made the difference.”
Grealish scored his first-ever FA Cup goal following a fine pass from Phil Foden which the former Aston Villa skipper likened to the kind of assist provided by Lionel Messi.
But it was Mahrez who received praise from Guardiola after his 19th goal of the season broke the deadlock.
‘Mahrez is playing the best football of his career’
“He is playing the best of his career,” added the Spaniard.
“We know the quality of Riyadh and he loves playing football. It’s not a profession for him, it’s a joy. He would play every day.
“We know his qualities. I’m the most proud because he loves playing football. For him, football is not a job, it’s a joy.”
City now ready for Manchester derby
The win keeps Manchester City’s bid for a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble alive, but Pep Guardiola played down any potential treble for the Premier League leaders.
“I’m not going to buy that argument, not at all,” he said.
And with Manchester City facing rivals Manchester United next Sunday, live on Sky Sports, he added: “[Against Manchester] United, we are trying to play a good game.”
Keane prepares for the Manchester derby
Sky Sports’ Roy Keane to ITV Sport:
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s another test for Manchester City.
“We said they’ve been fantastic for the past few years, but hopefully Manchester United will show up and do a job.
“The best thing for United will be to play on the counter-attack. No doubt City will dominate possession as they always do, but United on the counter and with a little bit of pace, they’ve been creating chances lately.
“They haven’t taken them, but they have to do it on Sunday because they won’t have that many.”
McCann: Performance the benchmark for Peterborough
For Peterborough, that fiery display has come against the backdrop of a relegation fight – which puts them bottom of the Championship and conceding on average two goals in every game.
For manager Grant McCann, who returned to the club for a second term last week, the performance here should be used as a benchmark moving forward.
“I’m really proud,” he said.
“We knew we had to be good defensively and have a good structure. (Ricky-Jade) Jones was sensational up front and we had a huge chance to go up 1-0.
“When you play against a top team, you know they will score the goals.
“I told them afterwards, ‘this is the benchmark’. It showed the energy and the aggression that you can play with. It’s up to me to get that out to them more regularly.”
‘Peterborough should be proud of his display’
Roy Keane to ITV Sport:
“You have to give Peterborough credit. I thought they were exceptional. They put their bodies on the line, gave their all for the cause, had a chance or two themselves and gained confidence as the game went on.
“But the moment you get a foothold in the game, you get punished by some really good teams.
“At the end of the day we saw the quality of Manchester City, but Peterborough should be proud of their performance.”
Peterborough return to Championship action on Friday March 4 at 7.45pm as they travel to Huddersfield.
Manchester City’s next fixture will see them face long-distance rivals Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday March 6 at 4.30pm, live on sky sports.