Nobody is blaming Pep Guardiola for resting his stars in a bid to avoid another Champions League flop
Erling Haaland and Marco Reus combined in a brilliant Dortmund move to score past Ederson in the first leg of the Champions League. A crucial away goal at the Etihad Stadium threatens the Champions league aspirations of the soon to be crowned Premier League winners.
PEP GUARDIOLA AND HIS UCL WORRIES
Pep Guardiola would likely be playing all the scenarios in his head before the second leg approaches, trying to weave a plan to stop the attacking force the German side possess. The one-goal lead that City produced would seem irrelevant to the mastermind who has a reputation for being abysmal in Europe’s top silverware.
THE BIELSA MINDSET
Marcelo Bielsa was relieved to see the foray of players Manchester City decided to rest against his Leeds team. But, to imagine Bielsa saying to his players that they were going to have an easy time in the Etihad would be a stretch even for the Argentine himself. Seven changes to the roaster from the one deployed against Dortmund combined with a change in formation saw the City side bow to an uncharacteristic defeat at home.
Registering 29 shots and well over 30 crosses, the City side was formidable in the final third, or were they? Like Barcelona’s defeat to Celtic in 2013, Leeds proved that possession is not everything in football.
Bielsa’s word after the game was a testament to the performance of the players on the field. Always running, despite looking tired, the Leeds defence threw in everything to stop the attacking threat that the billion-dollar club had at their disposal.
Scoring two crucial goals with the only two shots they managed during the game, City were left dismayed. The incredible lack of work ethic and mental fortitude of the Leeds players, despite losing their captain after he was sent off on the brisk of half time, was a commendable performance indeed. So much so that Pep Guardiola himself acknowledged the heart his opposition showed.
PEP 💬 Congratulations to Leeds first of all. Secondly, 11 v 11 was a game like we make two actions but we control, our build up was good and we create some clear chances. Then we made a mistake, didn't defend it well and they scored a goal. pic.twitter.com/cfBMkHvBih
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 10, 2021
TWO FOR TWO!
A goal right before half time by Stuart Dallas, with a perfectly executed low drive into the bottom left post gave Ederson no chance. The Brazilian goalkeeper had nothing much to do before that goal and the second half proved even lonelier as Leeds quite often even failed to get past the halfway line.
The young man on the opposite end, Illan Meslier, had a busy afternoon. A solid performance from the 21-year-old saw the once Championship side beat the most dominant force in European football. Stuart Dallas backed the goalkeeper’s exceptional performance when he struck the ball past Ederson’s leg in the 91st minute. Two goals with just two shots!
Marcelo Bielsa on Stuart Dallas: “It gives me great happiness for him because he’s a player whose game is based on a lot of generosity. This year has allowed Dallas to show a part of himself that we didn’t know he had.” 💛🤍💙 #MOT pic.twitter.com/TdZILsGVZY
— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) April 11, 2021
The absence of a physically capable striker was a visible problem for the home side. City always tries to exploit the half-spaces, a trademark of the Pep philosophy, one which Bielsa knew too well. Manchester City was forced wide; an area of the pitch City did not like to occupy.
Their crosses were all in vain and Sterling’s wasteful efforts did not help either. Ferran Torres found the equalizer in the 76th minute of the match after the wave of pressure they inflicted since the start of the second half.
If it wasn’t for a slip, Meslier might have parried that one away too. The 24th shot of the match for City saw their only goal in the match. Four hundred passes more and 72 per cent possession, in what looked like a training regime, wasn’t enough for the star-studded sky blues.
— PMLEGEND™ Esq.🇯🇲 👨🏾⚖️🌹 🅴 (@PMLEGEND) April 11, 2021
To be fair, none of the seven changes is second fiddle players. Put them in any team across Europe and they would go right in the starting eleven. A luxury that Pep Guardiola was gifted by the extravagant club spending’s.
This loss is of no importance, not to fans nor the club hierarchy, as the Champions League is the only real motive of every City fan. The jinx of Pep’s Champions League woes need an end and the City boss would do everything in his power to not invoke another upset.