Leeds United 1 Manchester City 1 – Wily Bielsa shows his former pupil Guardiola how it’s done
Leeds played more passes (429 to Man City’s 389), had more possession (53% to 47%), and registered more shots on target (seven to two). To put these statistics in context, the last team to out-pass Man City were none other than the EPL champions Liverpool themselves back in July.
WATCH: Rewatch Man City's last Premier League victory over Leeds
Nobody, not even the most hardcore of Bielsa fans, could have predicted such a dominant Leeds display against Man City, especially given that they were going up against a team worth more than 10 times their overall value.
Ok, maybe David didn’t quite slay Goliath this time round, but that was only because Goliath had enlisted the help of Ederson to save him from the giant-killing stones.
If Pep Guardiola had hoped to impress his former master Bielsa in this match, he failed badly. Bielsa put on a tactical masterclass for his former pupil, who sat meekly at the back of the classroom with no answers.
WATCH: Guardiola hails inspirational Bielsa
Line-ups: It’s a relatively straightforward starting-11 for Man City with new signing Ruben Dias handed a debut alongside the returning Aymeric ‘Eric’ Laporte. With no natural striker to speak of given the injuries to Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero, Guardiola opts to field a fluid front-three of Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Ferran Torres. As for Leeds, they go with what appears to be a 4-1-4-1 formation which on paper looks defensive, although knowing Bielsa, it’s likely to be anything but.
WATCH: Ruben Dias' first training session with Man City
4th minute: KDB hits the post!
Man City make a bright start as they go inches away from opening the scoring through Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian midfielder’s free-kick from the left deceives Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier, who was expecting a cross. Instead, De Bruyne shoots at Meslier’s near post to leave the Leeds custodian scrambling, but it hits the woodwork and Luke Ayling scrambles it away.
5th to 16th minute: Leeds and Man City trade blows but none really connects
As expected of Bielsa and Guardiola, both teams display their attacking intent while keeping things tight and tactical in the midfield and defence. This results in half-chances for the two teams, with Leeds first threatening through Ezgjan Alioski’s free header which flew over the bar and Man City responding through Torres’ effort that was cleared off the line by Stuart Dallas.
17th minute: GOAL! Sterling gives Man City the lead
In the absence of Aguero and Jesus, Sterling has been manfully trying to provide an attacking threat up front but had enjoyed little success. The Englishman however finally opened his account in the EPL this season, and in some style too. Cutting in from the left onto his stronger right foot, Sterling glides past two Leeds defenders before curling a shot into the bottom corner to give his team a 1-0 lead.
37th minute: The Ederson show begins as he saves from Dallas
Since Sterling’s goal, Leeds have been steadily getting themselves more and more into the game, playing passes with more confidence and giving the EPL a taste of what Bielsa-ball looks like. This increase in possession almost pays off with Dallas being set through on goal on the left after magnificent build-up play, but the full-back takes one touch too many in the box which allows Ederson to come out and block the shot at close range. A warning sign for Man City, but will they heed it?
45th minute: Ederson comes to the rescue again
No, Man City do not heed that warning sign. With half-time looming, Man City Benjamin Mendy loses concentration and fails to make a routine clearance. Instead, Ayling steals the ball from him and drives into the area, puts Laporte on his backside with a dummy, and fires a shot at goal. Once again however, Ederson stands strong in goal to save the day for Man City, who take a rather undeserved one goal lead into the break.
58th minute: Leeds go close as they turn the heat on Man City
Bielsa reorganises his team by making two substitutions within 10 minutes of the restart and it is one of his substitutes, summer signing Rodrigo, who nearly makes an immediate impact. After great build-up play in the midfield, the Spaniard is given time and space to run at Kyle Walker on the left. He manages to beat Walker but his shot from a tight angle is tipped over the bar by Ederson. Leeds win a corner…
59th minute: GOAL! Leeds equalise through Rodrigo
It turns out even Ederson is human. From the resulting corner, the Brazilian shot-stopper comes out to punch the ball away but is unable to get good contact on it. The ball falls limply into the path of Rodrigo who is at the right place and the right time and the 29-year-old has the simple task of tapping the ball into a near unguarded net. It’s 1-1 between the two sides and no one can argue that Leeds didn’t deserve that equaliser.
70th minute: Ederson redeems himself as Leeds hit the post!
There’s no doubt that Leeds have been the better team in the second half, and they were very nearly rewarded for their endeavour with the lead, but Ederson is there to foil them again. This time, Ayling’s cross from the right somehow manages to find its way to Rodrigo, who sends a looping header at goal that Ederson just manages to tip onto the post at full stretch. Bielsa shakes his head on the touchline as if bemoaning his team’s luck. Guardiola strokes his chin thoughtfully as if wondering if he should buy a LinkedIn Premium account to find a new job soon.
72nd minute: Sterling has a glorious chance but Meslier denies him
While Leeds have been undeniably the better team and Man City have been off colour, the visitors still do pose a threat, especially on the break. That’s what spending gazillions of dollars does for you. Mahrez gives Sterling a clever through ball and the speedy forward gallops towards goal, but instead of shooting, he decides to cut across the retreating Leeds defence, which allows Meslier the opportunity to smother the ball.
86th minute: Sterling takes a tumble in the box but referee and VAR are unimpressed
Desperate for all three points, Sterling decides to fall in the box after Liam Cooper appears to trip him. Replays however show that there was minimal contact between Cooper and Sterling. You know you’re doing something right when instead of just blowing you away with their football, Man City have to resort to diving and appealing for penalties to try and beat you.
87th minute: Ederson the hero for Man City AGAIN!
Just seconds after Sterling’s disgraceful attempt at winning a penalty, Leeds go on the counter and break through Patrick Bamford, who beats Man City’s offside trap. With just Ederson to beat however, Bamford fails to hold his nerve and fires the ball at Ederson.
The game finishes at 1-1 with Guardiola perhaps the more relieved of the two managers. Bielsa will rightly be pleased with the effort his charges put in and with the way his team played, but will rue their missed chances which denied them a famous victory. Whatever it is, Leeds surely will not be fighting a relegation battle this season.
As for Man City, it might be early in the season but it already looks like their charge for the Premier League title is over. Their 2-5 defeat to Leicester City last week, along with this result, is perhaps a sign of Guardiola’s declining prowess at the Etihad Stadium and if this continues on, Man City might very well finish the season with a different manager.