By Ed Elliot, PA
Pep Guardiola believes the perceived injustice of Erling Haaland’s disallowed goal in Wednesday’s thrilling 1-1 draw at Brighton proves Manchester City are Premier League champions on their own merits.
City top scorer Haaland looked to have claimed a late winner at the Amex Stadium but his close-range header from Cole Palmer’s cross was ruled out after VAR spotted a shirt pull on Levi Colwill.
Guardiola was visibly angered by the decision after seeing a replay on the big screen inside the ground and was later shown a yellow card by referee Simon Hooper for his ongoing protestations.
The City boss claims 36-goal striker Haaland has endured similar physical contact from defenders all season and feels the incident shows his side have not benefited from favourable refereeing calls during their charge to the title.
“If it’s disallowed, every action to Erling Haaland by all central defenders is a fault,” he said.
“Every action. And we saw one or two (on Wednesday).
“It’s a goal because he’s bigger, he’s stronger, he won the position (from Colwill) and it was an incredible action from Cole Palmer and the goal should be given.
80. Haaland’s goal is disallowed for a foul in the build-up
🔵 1-1 🐝 #ManCity https://t.co/hKT2987wyO
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 24, 2023
“But that proved that what we won on the pitch belongs to us, not anyone gave us anything.
“He has bruises on all of his body after the games. If he’s faulting in the disallowed goal, every action to him is a fault and never happens.”
Haaland, who squandered two excellent first-half chances, nodded home 11 minutes from time in front of the travelling fans after Julio Enciso’s stunning strike cancelled out Phil Foden’s opener.
A gripping south-coast contest halted City’s top-flight winning streak at 12 games but mattered little in the context of their season.
that proved that what we won on the pitch belongs to us, not anyone gave us anything.
Guardiola’s men enjoyed alcohol-fuelled celebrations after lifting the Premier League trophy following Sunday’s 1-0 win over Chelsea and are bidding to complete the treble with FA Cup and Champions League glory.
Following Sunday’s visit to Brentford, City face rivals Manchester United at Wembley on June 3 before attempting to become European champions for the first time against Inter Milan in Istanbul a week later.
Guardiola has defensive issues moving towards the two finals after Nathan Ake, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Manuel Akanji missed the trip to Sussex.
Jack Grealish was also absent, while John Stones and Foden were withdrawn during the game as a precaution.
“Phil had a knock in the first half and problems in his leg and the doctor told me that in this position it is dangerous so we don’t take a risk,” said Guardiola.
“John at the end was a little tight but he didn’t feel anything and is fine, he told me, but we didn’t want to take a risk because we had just one central defender with John.
“The others are injured so hopefully they can recover as soon as possible.
“We sustained no injuries for a long time but the moment we get near the Champions League final, four or five players get little niggles – important ones – and we have to recover them.”
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION ARE EUROPA LEAGUE! 💫 #BHAFC pic.twitter.com/cBtvsPwivQ
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) May 24, 2023
Sixth-placed Brighton cemented their spot in next season’s Europa League with the midweek point.
Pascal Gross, the Seagulls’ first signing following promotion to the top flight in 2017, told his club’s website: “I’m so proud of the boys, what an achievement for us.
“We can’t wait for the Europa League. What a season ahead.”
Paraguayan Enciso’s spectacular equaliser followed another goal of the season contender from the 19-year-old in last month’s 2-1 win at Chelsea.
.@JulioEnciso33‘s STUNNING strike against City! 🚀 @BrightonTools 📺 pic.twitter.com/qYpNvGfWYo
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) May 25, 2023
“He can have it (goal of the season),” said Gross. “Two incredible goals.
“What I like more, he’s getting better and better. It’s not easy coming from far away abroad with no English.
“But he’s improving speaking English, he’s improving adapting to the group, a good guy and I think there’s much more to come.”