Manchester City 2 – Leeds United 1 – togetherness. A spirited defence. No huge defeat. No collapse. It was a defeat but with some positives. Allardyce wanted togetherness and we saw that today.
Allardyce’s first big decision was to replace out of form Meslier with Robles – unprecedented in his time at Leeds. In form players Wober and Forshaw strengthened defence and midfield. Manchester City made seven changes compared to the team that beat West Ham earlier in the week. Leeds still Haaland and De Bruyne to contend with.
This was a one-sided affair. Leeds United played deep with 4 at the back and 5 in midfield allowing Manchester City to dominate possession. Manchester City played high up chasing down every Leeds attempt to play out from the back forcing Leeds to hoof the ball forwards which Bamford could not get to. Harrison and Gnonto on the wings were nullified into playing defensively in midfield. Out of nowhere McKennie has become a long throw specialist – his only real contribution to the match.
City’s style was for slow careful passing where they patiently find spaces and stretched Leeds defence by playing wide. It worked in the first half. The first goal came from Gundogan – a defensive midfielder allowed to play high up and finding space to score from outside the box. Seven minutes later Gundogan scored a second goal with exactly the same shot to the other corner.
Haaland terrorised the Leeds defence throughout the game. His strength, height and pace outbeating Leeds defenders all match. Despite having more shots than any other City player he failed to score. It was not his day, thank goodness.
Second half staying power
Sub Struijk’s first touch of the match was to concede a penalty. Gundogan, on for a hat trick, hit the post and Robles was able to save it. Pep was livid and felt that Haaland should have taken it. Out of nowhere sub Rodrigo scored a goal. Firpo’s header down to Rodrigo who took his opportunity – something Bamford could not do.
The match then changed – City were rattled and did not want to concede their three points. Guardiola flipped his game play that saw Manchester City take corners with no players in the penalty box. Alas, a defensive City stopped Leeds from equalising.
As the whilst blew the Leeds United players thanked with their fans – a belief we can go on to pick up points to save ourselves in the last three matches of the season.
Allardyce will have learned more about his Leeds side from his first match: he will have seen how nervous they are going forward and failing to keep possession. He will have seen them be stronger in defence than they were under Gracia, not collapsing after conceding a goal. Whilst City were good for more than their two goals Leeds have shown mettle by stopping City from scoring in the second half.
This was not a game to rate players beyond the defense – midfield and forwards rarely saw the ball.
Man of the match: Rodrigo