LONDON -- Pep Guardiola has offered his backing to United States men's national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen after a costly error that may ultimately have cost Manchester City a spot in the FA Cup Final.
With City already trailing from Ibrahima Konate's early header Steffen was too slow to get the ball out of his feet after a pass back from John Stones. Sadio Mane sniffed a chance and burst toward the goalkeeper. As Steffen took a touch to get the ball out from his feet, his opponent slid in and turned the ball into the goal to give his side a strong lead.
A further goal from the Senegal forward – a well struck volley that beat Steffen at his near post – would ultimately give Liverpool an unassailable advantage that extended the American's run of misfortune at Wembley Stadium, where he made mistakes in this season's Community Shield game against Leicester and last term's FA Cup semifinal defeat to Chelsea.
Steffen's error came only six days after City number one Ederson had been similarly cavalier on his goal line, only to escape the pressure put on him by Diogo Jota. That added a sense of cruel irony to his error. However, Guardiola made clear he would not change his approach, which requires his goalkeepers to lead the build up play.
"It's an accident, it happens," said the City manager. "[Ederson] was close in the last game as well. We need that [approach] to create our football. Mane was quicker.
"Of course we should review it. We use our keeper and can move them in different situations. I would say that the average, the way we create from there, the options, it can happen. Zack doesn't want to do it. It's football. The strikers miss chances all the time."
Jurgen Klopp was similarly supportive of Steffen and was more concerned with praising Mane, whose brace of goals continued an impressive run of form in 2022. Already he has won the Africa Cup of Nations and qualified for the World Cup with Senegal whilst scoring four goals in his last four games for his club.
"The first [Mane] goal, I love it," said the Liverpool manager, who will compete in his first FA Cup Final next month. "I don't like much about the fact that the goalie will get some criticism for it. It's not about that. Zack can do what he wants in that situation, like Ederson did a week ago. If you want to play football, these kind of things happen.
"The acceleration of Sadio, the desire to get there was really, really great."
What went unanswered from Klopp and Guardiola, however, was how much difference it makes that Steffen was playing his first club match since the last round of the FA Cup, nearly a month ago. It is one thing entrusting one of the best goalkeepers in the world, who plays in every other significant match, with taking passes under pressure against the high press of a side like Liverpool. It is quite another asking it of a player who has played just 21 games since the start of last season.
Guardiola, meanwhile, revealed that Kevin De Bruyne had been given four stitches on his ankle yesterday after suffering an injury in Wednesday's win over Atletico Madrid. Though the Belgian was among those warming up in the first half he did not get the chance to help turn the tide as City cut into their three goal deficit from the first half thanks to goals from Jack Grealish and, in the 90th minute, Bernardo Silva.
"He can walk and he can run but in the end if he plays and opens two or three stitches maybe we lose him more," said Guardiola. "Of course Kevin had condition and could play maybe from the beginning or maybe in the second half. At the end I didn't want to take a risk because sometimes it can open again during the game and get an infection and take a lot of antibiotics and time."