Review and Player Ratings from a Rodri masterclass – Leeds United 1-3 Manchester City
Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland teamed up for a pair of goals as Manchester City continued their winning ways in another dominating display against Leeds United. Following tonight’s victory, City reclaimed the second spot in the Premier League table and are once again just five points behind Arsenal.
Pep Guardiola once again elected to go with a rotated side as several first-team players recover from the World Cup. Ederson and John Stones retook their spots in the starting lineup, while Rico Lewis, Manuel Akanji, and Nathan Ake started their second match in a row. The midfield three also remained unchanged as Rodri joined up with Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne. Erling Haaland, unsurprisingly, remained up front, with Riyad Mahrez to his right and Jack Grealish to his left.
To the surprise of no one, Leeds were aggressive in their price from the very start of the match. However, it nearly backfired for them because just 45 seconds into the game and over the top ball by Ake put Haaland through on goal. But just like last week against Liverpool, the Norwegian was unable to chip the keeper. However, it was a sign of things to come.
While the winger combination of Grealish and Mahrez is a major talking point amongst City fans, it is clear that when the two of them play City are able to control the game and limit counterattacks. That is imperative when facing a side like Leeds.
After Haaland’s near goal in the opening minute, it took a while for City to create more clear-cut chances. After the first 25 minutes or so, Leeds press was beginning to lose steam, and the Blues were able to start breaking through.
In the 30th minute, De Bruyne sent Haaland through on goal, but his shot was saved by Illan Meslier, who came off his line.
Grealish also had a few chances in the following minutes, first was a wide-open volley effort after an excellent ball was played by Mahrez, but Grealish’s attempt on goal was hit too strong as it flew over the bar.
Grealish’s trio of misfortunes were capped off in the 45th minute when he missed an empty net. The chance was set up by an excellent no-look flick by De Bruyne to an overlapping Lewis, who squared Grealish up for a simple tap-in.
Fortunately for the £100m man, his second-half performance saved him from an otherwise embarrassing night.
The downside of a player like Phil Foden not playing is that you lose a proven goal-scorer. And for 45 minutes of the first half, it appeared as though his absence might be clearly felt.
However, that feeling did not last long, as City were able to grab the first goal in the next sequence of play.
In the 46th minute, De Bruyne crossed it to Rodri at the top of the box, who set up Mahrez on the right wing. The Algerian’s effort was parried away by Meslier, but it rebounded right out to Rodri for the easy tap-in.
It was a much-deserved goal that gave City the lead heading into halftime.
Grealish was able to redeem himself just minutes into the second half. The 27-year-old Englishman intercepted a pass between two Leeds defenders, which sent him and Haaland free on a breakaway.
Grealish carried the ball into the box before squaring it to Haaland for the easy tap-in. Following the goal, Grealish screamed in celebration as he was venting his frustrations after a tumultuous first half.
51 minutes in, and City were now leading 2-0.
The Grealish Halland connection wasn’t over yet, though. A little over 10 minutes later, De Bruyne fed Haaland at the top of the box, who played a quick pass to Grealish cutting down the left wing, who immediately sent it back the Norwegian’s way for a shot on goal. Haaland’s effort was hit too hard for Meslier to get a proper hand on it, giving City a much-deserved three-goal lead.
Following City’s third goal, Lewis was replaced by Joao Cancelo, marking the Portuguese’s first appearance since the World Cup. And a few minutes later, Grealish was replaced by Foden.
Immediately following the substitution, Leeds defender Pascal Struijk was able to get on the end of Sam Greenwood’s corner kick. His header was hit with pace and was just inches away from a diving Ederson to give Leeds their only goal.
With Lewis and Grealish off the pitch, it was far more difficult for City to keep control of the game, and there were few chances created for the remaining twenty minutes or so.
Leeds are now in their third season back in the Premier League and have faced City five times; they have now been outscored 12-4 in those games dating back to 2020.
City next take on Everton on New Year's Eve. It will hopefully be another three points considering the Toffees have lost four straight and haven’t won since before Halloween.
Man of the Match
It’s been a good stretch of days for Manchester-based defensive midfielders. Yesterday Casemiro had his first great performance, only for it to be one-upped by Rodri. It is once again another unsung performance by the Spaniard, who has routinely gone unappreciated by the national media.
Rodri has always had an eye for goal, and his rebound in the closing seconds of the first half helped the City squad overlook some of Grealish’s first-half misses. As always, his defensive work and distribution were outstanding; just another all-around great performance by the best defensive midfielder in the league.
De Bruyne: 8
Written by: @IVIeehan
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