“We love a bit of spice but we hope this doesn’t get out of hand,” co-commentator Jim Beglin commentated midway through the first half of Manchester City’s 4-1 victory over Liverpool.
Speak for yourself, Jim. One of the golden rules of football broadcasting is that “scenes we don’t want to see” almost exclusively refer to scenes we do, indeed, want to see and this was no exception.
The clash lacked the kind of stakes we’ve become accustomed to from this fixture in recent years. Only one of the two sides are going on for the Premier League title. The other are mounting an increasingly limp bid to qualify for the Champions League.
Ultimately the final scoreline, and the 22 points separation between City and Liverpool in the Premier League table, told us this was something of a mismatched contest.
It might have lacked the kind of knife-edge tension that better, ultimately more memorable, games delivered when Jurgen Klopp’s Reds were better equipped to go toe-to-toe with City, but the frustration at being second-best led to an enjoyable level of needle.
The game never quite boiled over as it threatened to in the first half. The hosts stepped things up a gear after the break and Liverpool quietly took their medicine.
Things threatened to get spicy on a number of occasions, not least the way Pep Guardiola chose to celebrate Julian Alvarez’s equaliser.
Guardiola explained afterwards that he was looking up towards his son in the stands, but his attention was diverted by Liverpool substitute Kostas Tsimikas wandering forlornly past.
The 52-year-old might have thought better of celebrating the goal in the face of Tsimikas, but we’re glad he didn’t. Even the most ardent Liverpool fan would admit that it’s fun to hate Guardiola, who demonstrated his inner sh*thouse with the celebration – like a lite version of Martin Keown on Ruud van Nistelrooy way back when.
“That celebration there, I don’t know how Tsimikas hasn’t pushed him out of the way… He couldn’t contain himself,” remarked Rio Ferdinand in the BT Sport studio.
"I don't know how Tsimikas hasn't pushed him out of the way there!" 👀
Pep Guardiola didn't hold back in his celebrations in front of the Liverpool players… 😂
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 1, 2023
Unfortunately, for fans everywhere of “scenes we don’t want to see”, Tsimikas didn’t bite. He just did his best impression of Michael Cera’s sad walk from Arrested Development, kept his head down, and just kept walking past.
And that was that. Until the press conference, when the issue reared its head, with one journalist accusing Guardiola of being “pretty provocative”.
“I was happy and I said how nice our goal was. That’s all,” the City boss explained.
“Of course,” he responded, when asked if it an attempt at humour.
The little tet-a-tet developed into a chance for the coach to exhibit his true talent. Forget the tactics. Forget shaping how the game has been played for the past 10 years. Guardiola’s true calling in life is being the most sarcastic, passive-aggressive man on planet earth.
“Nah, come on. I’m so sorry. Speak with Tsimikas, speak with the others. Ask him if I lack respect, I celebrate the goal with my son on that floor (the tier above). And I said ‘The goal was nice, wasn’t it?’ That’s all. I’m so sorry. Do you think it’s a lack of respect? Ah ok, sorry. I’m so sorry.”
You don’t need to watch Guardiola’s press conference to parse the tone of those words. You can hear it in your head. You mightn’t be shocked to learn that “I’m so sorry”, repeated three times in one answer, didn’t exactly sound entirely genuine.
And fair play to him. Football would be infinitely more boring if everyone behaved themselves.