City survive late Leeds pressure

Sam Allardyce returned to the dugouts on Saturday, as the new Leeds United boss prepared to kickstart his ninth managerial stint in the Premier League with a tough trip to the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola’s side have been in fine form recently, and are in control of their own destiny this season after thrashing fellow title hopefuls Arsenal. As for Leeds, they sat in 17th ahead of kickoff – though their goal difference is the only redeeming factor that prevents them from slipping into the relegation zone.

MCI: Ederson; Ake, Laporte, Akanji; Gundogan, Lewis; Foden, De Bruyne, Alvarez, Mahrez; Haaland

LEE: Robles; Firpo, Wober, Kristensen, Ayling; Roca, McKennie; Harrison, Forshaw, Gnonto; Bamford

City looked to be the brighter of the two sides in the opening exchanges, despite Erling Haaland blazing an effort over the crossbar from distance. Riyad Mahrez looked to tee up Kevin De Bruyne in the 12th minute, but the Belgian’s strike was blocked well by Max Wober.

Pep Guardiola’s side seemed to have left their finishing boots at home, as De Bruyne sought to create a fine chance for his side to take the lead in the fifteenth minute. However, both Phil Foden and Erling Haaland ran onto the chance and the pair seemed confused as to who was meant to shoot – and the ball trickled out for a goal kick.

Julian Alvarez was the next player to squander a brilliant chance to take the lead, as the Argentinian striker powered the ball over the crossbar. Haaland had an effort saved minutes later by Joel Robles – who had replaced Illan Meslier to make his first Premier League start in almost six years!

The hosts finally took the lead in the 19th minute though, as Ilkay Gundogan managed to get on the end of Mahrez’s pass before picking out the bottom right corner with a fabulous low drive. Mahrez looked to get on the scoresheet himself soon after, but the Algerian’s effort settled on the roof of the net without really threatening Robles.

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Erling Haaland should have added to City’s advantage, but instead the Norwegian produced an uncharacteristic miss – placing his effort an inch or two wide of the post after a tidy flicked pass from Kevin De Bruyne.

Not happy to settle for one goal though, it was Ilkay Gundogan that bagged City’s second in the 27th minute. In almost identical fashion to the first, the midfielder received the ball from Mahrez once more before tucking a strike into the bottom corner. Despite missing a flurry of clear-cut chances, the hosts had taken a comfortable lead – though they really should have been four or five goals to the good at this point!

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Leeds looked to claw one back from a corner, and Marc Roca’s inswinging delivery found Weston McKennie at the far post – but Ederson was able to push the American’s header away. Manuel Akanji then cleared the danger.

City looked to extend their lead yet again at the other end, as Gundogan found Foden inside the box. The Englishman’s strike was parried away by Robles – but only as far as Alvarez, who managed to get a shot off. Max Wober was there to clear it off the line though, and the offside flag was soon raised regardless.

There were to be more chances for City before the break – but they were less than clinical in front of goal, and the opportunities to put the game to bed were wasted by Haaland and Foden. Pep Guardiola can’t have been to mad at half-time – they were leading by two goals after all, but in truth they could have had six or seven.

Erling Haaland completed his sensational hat-trick of misses early on in the second half, as he thumped a header against the crossbar from close range. Thankfully, his blushes were spared by the linesman – who raised the offside flag as Aymeric Laporte had been offside in the buildup. The Norwegian tested Robles with another headed effort soon after, though the ‘keeper was able to make the save with ease.

Haaland’s pursuit of Dixie Dean’s goalscoring record looked like it would have to wait, as the forward squandered yet another chance in the 62nd minute. After being played in by Rico Lewis, the striker turned and thundered a first-time effort towards goal – and despite having Robles beaten, the ball skimmed the post before rolling behind for a goal kick.

Rodrigo conceded a free-kick ten minutes later after committing a foul on Kevin De Bruyne – and that gave Riyad Mahrez an opportunity to fizz a ball towards goal to extend City’s lead. The Algerian’s effort sailed past the Leeds wall, but Robles made the save.

The hosts were awarded a penalty in the final ten minutes, as Pascal Struijk caused Phil Foden to crash to the ground inside the box. Despite Pep Guardiola’s appeals from the touchline for Haaland to take the penalty, Ilkay Gundogan stepped up to the spot in a bid to complete his hat-trick – but his effort rattled off the post!

Guardiola was fuming on the touchline – and those angers were worsened a minute later as Leeds reduced the deficit. Manuel Akanji lost possession on the edge of the box, and Rodrigo was able to race through on goal before tucking an effort past Ederson. With five minutes of the ninety left, perhaps Sam Allardyce would be able to live up to his claim that he’s no worse than Guardiola or Klopp!

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The hosts were able to hold on though – though they resorted to holding the ball in the corner for the final few minutes. Sam Allardyce will be impressed with some aspects of Leeds’ display, but that ultimately won’t matter if they aren’t able to turn it into a point (or three) against Newcastle next Sunday.

As for Manchester City, they face a trip to the Santiago Bernabéu in midweek. They’ll look to secure a respectable result in the first leg, ahead of the return fixture at the Etihad a week later. There’s a trip to Goodison Park sandwiched between both games against Real Madrid.