Pep Guardiola's quest to become the first City manager to regain the Premier League title took a hit today as Stuart Dallas and ten-man Leeds sunk City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium. The brace, sandwiched by Ferran Torres' leveller, was enough for the visitors to snatch all three points despite being second-best for the entirety of the second half. The loss means that City still need four more wins to regain their crown, with only six league games to go.
The players observed a two-minute silence pre-match to honour the passing of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away on Friday morning.
The two sides and coaching staff had a two minutes' silence prior to kick-off.
Pep Guardiola rang the changes for this one and the lack of cohesion on the left-side was clear early on, with Raphinha being Leeds' main threat throughout the opening stages. His cut-back was unfortunate to have not been turned in by Patrick Bamford in the opening minutes but the winger continued to be a nuisance to Nathan Ake, who was totally exposed due to Benjamin Mendy's marauding down the left-wing.
Despite Leeds' early pressure, City had 70% of the ball in the first fifteen minutes but looked short of ideas without Riyad Mahrez or Kevin De Bruyne in the starting XI. Leeds' threat down City's left channel continued to persist as the game continued and Helder Costa's pull-back cross was missed again by Bamford who was distracted by John Stones' failure to clear the ball.
City began to take control of proceedings after that though and Leeds first had a taste of City on 19 minutes, when Fernandinho freed Raheem Sterling with a pin-point through ball, although the winger could only force a save out of Meslier. The blues continued to persist, with Jesus and Torres both having shots blocked from close range (21) and Fernandinho forcing a smart stop out of Meslier from a difficult angle (31). Ferran Torres then headed over from a free-kick as John Stones was bundled over by Liam Cooper, although there was no VAR check. Fernandinho then again was at the centre of City's attacking as the midfielder burst into the box and cut one back for Sterling, who dragged his shot miserably wide of the goal (39).
It felt like one of those days and it was to be. Leeds punted one over to Helder Costa on the left who was twice tackled by Joao Cancelo before still retaining possession, and the winger played inside to Patrick Bamford, who smartly laid it off to Stuart Dallas to fire in off the post.
Stuart Dallas opened the scoring with a smartly hit effort past Ederson.
The visitors looked to be heading for a fairly comfortable lead at the break but Liam Cooper's reckless challenge on Gabriel Jesus was checked by VAR and the referee deemed the challenge as dangerous play and sent off the defender to City's delight.
The resulting free-kick was crossed in by Alex Zinchenko and John Stones would've been right to feel aggrieved to have missed the target as City went into the break a goal behind.
Despite being in control and pinning Leeds into their own box, City looked out of ideas as the second half wore on and resorted to crosses, which were comfortably cleared by Leeds. Fernandinho and Joao Cancelo both tested the Leeds' 'keeper but the blues didn't seriously threaten their visitors until Ferran Torres smartly brought City level after Bernardo Silva had laid it off to him inside the box (76).
Ferran Torres fired CIty level with fifteen minutes to go.
That goal was expected to spark City into life but Leeds had a couple of huge chances through Raphinha, who was smartly denied by Ederson, but Stuart Dallas struck in stoppage time to seal a famous win for Bielsa's side and send City home with nothing to show for their efforts.
Team News: Pep Guardiola made seven changes from the side that beat Leicester last weekend, with Ruben Dias and Kevin De Bruyne among those rested. Sergio Aguero missed out through injury, whilst Aymeric Laporte was deemed not fully fit. In came Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres, Bernardo Silva, Nathan Ake, Joao Cancelo, John Stones and Alex Zinchenko.
No reason to panic
The only thing that Pep Guardiola learnt from today's game is that he cannot trust players to win games that aren't in the starting XI right now. Raheem Sterling was hopeless, the defence was shaky and there was zero creativity within this side. With crucial games coming up, Pep will no doubt resort to his trusted assets and City will soon be back to winning ways, hopefully starting with a huge win in Germany on Wednesday night. This match offered our key stars, such as KDB and Ruben Dias, some rest bite and with cup finals, semi-finals and a quarter-final to come in the month of April, it was huge for them to rack up some rest today.
Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri were among us those rested ahead of the huge Champions League clash in midweek.
Raheem needs a rest
He's in horrendous form and will be painful to watch at the moment for plenty of us but it's key to remember that Raheem has played constant football for almost four years now. Where some players were taking a couple of games off during international breaks, he was being drained by England and it's remarkable how much he keeps going. He's avoided major injury unlike the vast majority of the team but the constant minutes are taking their toll on his mind as much as on his football. He's overthinking, trying too hard at times and could do with a summer off.
Raheem Sterling needs time off ahead of next season but won't get such a luxury with England heading to the European Championships in June.
Player ratings: Ederson (8), Cancelo (5), Stones (8), Ake (5), Mendy (5), Zinchenko (6), Bernardo (6), Fernandinho (7), Torres (7), Jesus (6), Sterling (5)
Subs: Gundogan (6), Foden (N/A)
Man of the Match: John Stones
Where next? Borussia Dortmund (A), Wednesday 14th April.