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Pep Guardiola hints at team selection mistake in Liverpool draw amid high praise for substitute



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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has praised the impact of substitute Mateo Kovacic following the 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield.

The 29-year-old, who joined Manchester City from Chelsea in a £25 million transfer last summer, made his 32nd appearance for the club during Sunday afternoon’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Merseyside.

Kovacic replaced an infuriated Kevin De Bruyne at Anfield, as Manchester City slipped to third in the Premier League table, one point behind both Arsenal and Liverpool ahead of the final 10 games of the season.

John Stones had cleverly given Manchester City a 23rd minute lead after a smart set-piece routine, however Liverpool were gifted an early second-half equaliser from the penalty spot, as a result of mistakes from both Ederson and Nathan Ake.

City struggled for control against a buoyant Liverpool side and energised Anfield crowd, although the Sky Blues successfully absorbed the second-half pressure and almost scored a shock winner, with both Phil Foden and Jeremy Doku rattling the woodwork.

A series of issues forced Pep Guardiola to make a surprise substitute, opting to replace De Bruyne with Kovacic in the 69th minute, as the Catalonian seeked to weather the Liverpool storm.

The introduction of Kovacic changed the clash, with the Croatian international hailed for his cameo performance, and becoming subject to questions about why the veteran midfielder didn’t start ahead of Julian Alvarez on Merseyside.

Kovacic, who has won five UEFA Champions League titles, was praised by Guardiola post-match, as Manchester City held out for a potentially vital point.

“We gave away the penalty and then after that for 15-20 minutes in this stadium, it was like a tsunami. But then Mateo (Kovacic) came on and we started to play and keep the ball, which we didn’t before.”

Manchester City face Newcastle United in the Emirates FA Cup quarter-finals next weekend, before hosting Arsenal in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium after the international break.

Guardiola’s side lost to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the reverse fixture earlier this season, and were also knocked-out of the Carabao Cup by Newcastle at the fourth round stage.