- Adam Howarth
Review and Player Ratings as City leave work to be done – RB Leipzig 1-1 Manchester City
A lacklustre second-half performance from Manchester City has seen the Blues draw 1-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie with RB Leipzig after a Josko Gvardiol header cancelled out Riyad Mahrez’s first-half opener in Germany.
Ahead of the match, Pep Guardiola made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Nottingham Forest on Saturday in frustrating fashion.
Kevin De Bruyne and Aymeric Laporte didn’t travel to Germany yesterday due to illness, as confirmed by Guardiola.
The pair dropped out, making way for Nathan Ake and Manuel Akanji, while Riyad Mahrez, who inspired the club to the final of this competition in 2021, returned to the side to replace Phil Foden.
From the first whistle, City dominated possession and made almost all of the chances throughout the first half.
Ruben Dias directed a header from a corner early on straight at Janis Blaswich in the RB Leipzig goal before Rodri sent an effort from the edge of the box over the bar.
But on the 27-minute mark, the deadlock was finally broken, as Xaver Schlager lost possession just outside his box. Jack Grealish picked up the ball and sent Riyad Mahrez through on goal.
The Algerian did the rest with a cool finish, placing the ball to the right of the goalkeeper to give the Blues the lead.
After that, Guardiola’s side remained on top and saw another couple of chances from set-pieces, both of which were headed just off target by Rodri. Grealish also came close himself, driving the ball just over the bar from the edge of the area.
Having offered next to nothing going forward to that point, the hosts had to wait until stoppage time for their first chance when Timo Werner found space just inside the box before firing the ball through a crowd of bodies but into the grateful hands of Ederson.
Marco Rose’s men carried that momentum into the second half and dominated the early stages, passing the ball around the Premier League champions and creating chances.
Substitute Benjamin Henrichs headed a cross from the left just over the bar, but he would see an even better chance just moments later. The visitors’ backline was dragged to the right, leaving plenty of space on the left, where Andre Silva sent Henrichs through one-on-one.
On this occasion, his shot was dragged inches wide of the far post.
Ederson was significantly busier at this point than he had been in the first half and in several of the club’s previous games; he was called into action yet again, batting away a Werner cross before denying Andre Silva from a one-on-one opportunity after he breezed past Akanji.
City then saw a rare chance on the counter-attack, when Erling Haaland saw his first major involvement of the match, bursting in behind and holding off the attentions of Josko Gvardiol before dragging a shot wide of the far post on his weaker right foot.
But Leipzig were soon back down the other end of the pitch; Ederson made another top save to keep out Dominik Szoboszlai’s attempt from range, which was headed for the top corner.
However, from the following corner, Marcel Halstenberg put in a dangerous delivery, to which Josko Gvardiol rose highest and diverted into a virtually open goal, with Ederson left isolated after failing to claim the cross.
The Blues needed a response and came close when captain Ilkay Gundogan had a go from just inside the area, yet his drilled effort was well kept out by Blaswich down to his left bottom corner.
From that point on, both sides had spells of possession in their respective final thirds, but neither could cause any substantial damage to their opponent.
However, at the death, from a corner, with the last chance of the game, a well-worked short corner routine from City saw a shot blocked seemingly by the arms of Henrichs in his own area, met by many appeals from the visiting players. Yet that was where the referee Serdar Gozubuyuk blew his whistle.
Overall, it’s a disappointing first-leg result for City. A win would’ve greatly reduced the pressure on Guardiola’s side going into the second leg in Manchester, but it’s still all to play for, and it will be a case of the winner takes all at the Etihad.
In the first half, the Blues were dominant and just as was the case at Forest, they should’ve taken their chances. Again, they were punished in a second half dominated by Leipzig. In uncertain times for City, there’s still a considerable amount to improve upon. They’ll be hoping for a much stronger second leg.
Man of the Match
As has been the case all season, Nathan Ake was incredibly solid at left-back once again, and Jack Grealish linked up with him nicely ahead of him on the wing to cause problems with his direct approach.
However, we would give the Man of the Match to Ederson. He’s come under severe criticism from the fanbase lately, and admittedly, he didn’t cover himself in glory for the equaliser, but without him, the match would’ve ended in a Leipzig win. He made some top saves and has kept City in it going back to Manchester.
Ederson - 7.5
Walker - 7
Akanji - 6.5
Dias - 6.5
Aké - 7.5
Rodri - 6.5
Bernardo - 6.5
Gundogan - 6.5
Mahrez - 7
Haaland - 5.5
Grealish - 7.5
Written by: @AdamHowarthSJ
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