RB Leipzig 1, Manchester City 1 (UEFA Champions League Round of 16. 1st Leg)
Manchester City were held by another late equaliser after Riyad Mahrez’ opener at RB Leipzig was cancelled out by Josko Gvardiol.Embed from Getty Images
In a game of the proverbial two halves City were on top in a first half in which City only had Mahrez’ strike to show for their dominance whereas the home side drew level in the second half thanks to a corner headed home by Gvardiol to leave their Champions League round of 16 tie even.
There were warning signs for City in a surprisingly poor second half for them with Ederson and his defenders stopping some good chances for the home side who ramped up their high press and went on the offensive.
They scored a deserved equaliser through Gvardiol and finished with more shots on target than their guests whose main strike threat Erling Haaland ended the night cutting a frustrated figure after a lack of service from his team mates.
And City had a claim for what looked a clear handball off Benjamin Henrichs in injury time which was turned down by the referee, with VAR bizarrely opting not to intervene, just to top off another disappointing night.
City boss Pep Guardiola defended his team after a tough game in Germany.
He said “I was happy for the whole game not just the second half.
“Leipzig stepped forward and pressed even higher in the second half, but we came back in the last 15 minutes.”
“The reality is we were not going to win 5-0, Leipzig are a good team.”
He once again failed to make any substitutions to change the intensity of the game, explaining: “I saw the team were playing good, especially in the middle. I thought about Phil [Foden] but I decided to stay with the team on the pitch.”
And on the injury time handball incident, he added: “I didn’t see it but I know what happened.”
City were without provider-in-chief Kevin De Bruyne and Aymeric Laporte – both reported to be ill – while Phil Foden was dropped by City boss Pep Guardiola for the Champions League trip to RB Leipzig.
Replacing them were Nathan Ake, Manuel Akanji, and Mahrez as City reverted to an orthodox back four after the disappointing draw at Nottingham Forest at the weekend.
City’s bench was filled with youngsters including new signing Maximo Perrone – an £8m January signing from Velez Sarsfield.
And City started cautiously with the Leipzig side dangerous on the break but with Mahrez closer to Erling Haaland and Kyle Walker high on the right to offer unchallenged width.
The first real chance was a header straight at the keeper from Mahrez’ corner after 14 minutes.
Jack Grealish earned a free kick after 16 minutes but Mahrez’ free kick was poor and didn’t clear the wall.
Leipzig were thwarted on the break with a well marshalled offside trap from City who were able to play around their hosts.
And City finally got their reward after 27 minutes with Mahrez firing home past Janis Blaswich after he got on the end of a straight pass from Grealish between the defenders which was back heeled into his path by Gundogan and swept the ball home for his 12th goal of the season.
City could have been 2-0 up minutes later but Walker’s pass to Ilkay Gundogan was cleared for a corner.
Mahrez’ corner was headed back across the 6 yard box towards the back post by Rodri but it evaded the waiting Haaland while Grealish and Rodri saw efforts go over the bar as City continued to carve serious chances out.
Leipzig improved just before the break and had a chance in injury time through Timo Werner which was saved by Ederson but would have been offside had he scored.
Werner also started brightly in the second half as Leipzig turned their press up a notch quickly.
Mahrez saw a shot blocked after Gundogan’s cutback found him following a great interception by Ake.
Benjamin Henrichs won the ball off Grealish and headed the ball over the bar and spurned the chance to equalise with a second chance after Dominik Szoboszlai sent him clean through after a mistake by City.
And Ederson had to get down to block a cutback from Werner destined for Emil Forsberg as the home side improved vastly in the second half of the game.
Andre Silva was denied by Ederson after rounding Akanji to get into a shooting position as City continued to live dangerously with a slim lead with Henrichs going wider.
Christopher Nkunku, Leipzig’s star striker coming back from injury, was introduced for Forsberg after 66 minutes as the home side continued to trouble City.
And Walker came to City’s rescue again as City almost fell for an Andre Silva back heel.
Haaland put the ball wide as he finally raced clear thanks to a through ball from Grealish – his first touch in the Leipzig box.
Ederson had to concede a corner from Szoboszlai as City were being pushed to the limit but Josko Gvardiol rose highest above Ruben Dias to meet the corner from Marcel Halstenberg’s corner with 20 minutes to go.
Gundogan had a shot saved on one of City’s rare second half forays but the chance to react immediately was thwarted by Blaswich.
City’s bench was sparse but a frustrated Guardiola – recognising the risk – opted to make no changes despite being under immense pressure in the second half and having Julian Alvarez and Foden available.