Man City were on such a good run that, despite the plaudits thrown at Bielsa by Guardiola, Leeds United should focus on damage limitation. With Liverpool and Manchester United to follow this is a tough few weeks. However, for Manchester City, they are also busy in other competitions so four key players were benched for this match with Aguerro not even featuring. Maybe Guardiola reckoned on strength in depth to win? Leeds United kept to their core formation with Harrison out due to being on loan from City. Rodrigo was absent again, missing out on vital game time.
Early on Man City showed their might with 70% possession and patient build up. Leeds however took every moment of possession as an opportunity to attack. Most of these ended up in dust but when it worked, it almost led to a goal – twice Bamford was a fed the ball into the penalty with a clear shot on goal only to be a yard out of position.
Man City are actually quite dull to watch – passevr, run, pass and repeat until a gap is found in the defence. Ultimately, City had all the shots but Leeds had the one that hit the back of the net. One of those darting runs simply needed to work and Leeds only shot on goals worked with Leeds going ahead thanks to Dallas.
And then Cooper changed everything. In spite of being first to the ball his follow through was judged dangerous and after the ref had his own look at VAR the yellow card was upped to a red – the letter of the law. Leeds ended the first half on ten men. Bamford had to sacrificed so Struijk could bolster the defence.
The second half dragged for Leeds fans as Man City sat around the penalty box launching attack after attack. It was nail biting and Philips was heroic as was the rest of the Leeds defence. Eventually City found a way through and for the last fifteen minutes it was even more frightening and slowly moving as City eeked out that winner.
Man City can bring on De Bruyne as a sub and Leeds have Stuijk, that is the difference in the value of City’s players compared to Leeds. It is testament to how far Leeds come this season that with ten men Leeds built an almost impermeable wall that the best team in the league struggled to find a way through and with players like Sterling were often reduced to shots outside the box.
And then, completely out of the blue, Dallas, with everything Bielsa had drilled into him, ran like a blue arsed fly with a through ball from the half way line and nutmegged the City Goalkeeper to give Leeds the win. It was all over, a second dart into the City half by Raphinha was felled by a cynical foul that,despite being the last man to the goalkeeper, resulted in only a yellow.
It was a rock solid performance a world away from the dark days of defeat to Manchester United. The players have a lot about defending this season and are now no longer weak at corner set pieces. Even Koch, fit, is unable to get a start. Alioski, touted with leaving at the end of the season, did his job. Dallas, though, found that cutting edge.
Man of the match: Dallas