Pep Guardiola on Oleksandr Zinchenko: "Yes of course it is not an easy period for Alex. Playing football is the best way for him. We are through to the next round and it was a good night knowing the difficulty of the FA Cup away."
Wednesday 2 March 2022 09:27, UK
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said playing football was best for Oleksandr Zinchenko after the Ukraine international captained the visitors to victory in their FA Cup fifth-round clash at Peterborough.
The full-back was given the honour of leading out the Premier League champions as a show of support against Russia's invasion of his homeland.
Zinchenko was shown crying at the support shown to Ukraine ahead of Saturday's Premier League win 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.
Guardiola may have made six changes but his side boasted 11 full internationals and he praised Fernandinho for his decision to hand the armband to Zinchenko.
"Our captain decided to give the armband to him, 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 had been cheered in all four corners of the Weston Homes Stadium, he led City out as he and Posh captain Frankie Kent carried a Ukrainian flag.
Asked after the game about Zinchenko, Guardiola replied: "Yes of course it is not an easy period for Alex.
"He got not just [support from our fans], but all around the world, the UK, about this insane situation we are living in right now.
"Playing football is the best way for him. We are through to the next round and it was a good night knowing the difficulty of the FA Cup away.
"They started much better than us in the second half but the rest, we controlled difficult conditions on the pitch, we adapted well and at 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 was singled out for special praise by Guardiola after his 19th goal of the season broke the deadlock.
"He's playing the best of his career," added the Spaniard.
"We know the quality Riyad has and he loves to play football. It's not a profession to him, it's a joy. He would play every single day.
"We know the quality he has. I am proud the most because he loves to play football. For him football is not a profession, it's a joy."
Victory keeps alive Manchester City's bid to win a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble, but Pep Guardiola played down any potential treble talk for the Premier League leaders.
"I am not going to buy this argument, not at all," he said.
And with Manchester City facing rivals Manchester United next on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, he added: "[Against Manchester] United, we try to do a good game."
Sky Sports' Roy Keane to ITV Sport:
"I'm looking forward to it. It's another test for Manchester City.
"We've said they've been fantastic over the last few years, but hopefully Manchester United will turn up and do a job.
"The best thing for United will be to play on the counter-attack. City will no doubt dominate possession like they always do, but United on the counter and with a bit of pace, they've been creating chances lately.
"They've not been taking them, but they've got to do that on Sunday because they won't get that many."
For Peterborough, this spirited display came against the backdrop of a relegation fight - which sees them bottom of the Championship and conceding on average two goals every game.
For manager Grant McCann, who returned to the club for a second stint in charge just last week, the performance here has to be used as the yardstick moving forward.
"I'm really proud," he said.
"We knew we had to be good defensively and had good structure. (Ricky-Jade) Jones was sensational up front and we had a massive chance to go 1-0 up.
"When you're playing against a top-class team, you know they will score the goals.
"I said to them afterwards, 'that's the benchmark'. This has shown the energy and aggressiveness we can play with. It's up to me to get that out of them on a more regular basis."
Roy Keane to ITV Sport:
“You have to give credit to Peterborough. I thought they were outstanding. They put their bodies on the line, they gave everything for the cause, had one or two chances themselves, and they grew in confidence as the game went on.
“But just as you get a foothold in the game, you get punished by really good teams.
“In the end, we saw the quality from Manchester City, but Peterborough should be proud of their performance.”
Peterborough will return to Championship action on Friday March 4 at 7.45pm as they travel to Huddersfield.
Manchester City's next game will see them take on inter-city rivals Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday March 6 at 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports.