City stars lull themselves to sleep against Leipzig, only daring after halftime (1-1)
Anyone who switched on at halftime had missed virtually nothing. In a duel that resembled a training match before the break and could somewhat pass for an eighth final in the Champions League after it, Manchester City and RB Leipzig fell short of 1-1 in Germany.
Pep Guardiola’s stars showed what they could do before halftime, but at such a sky-high pace that it not only lulled the German opponent to sleep, but also themselves. And they knew it in the second half, in which, as if by magic, Leipzig did dare to play soccer and actually scored.
As a result, the return in three weeks in Manchester is not without tension.
It was a soporific display before halftime, one of those matches where you doze off with a newspaper or a book, letting the thoughts drift back for a moment to the spectacle of a day before, between Liverpool and Real Madrid.
City played the trademark tikki-taka, but in slow-motion. Triangle here, roundabout there, until somewhere a hole appeared. Like the viewers, it lulled RB Leipzig to sleep. It may be part of that energy drink brand, but red-faced bulls the Germans certainly were not on this chilly Wednesday night in Leipzig. Like tame calves, they trudged along behind the City stars.
Referee Serdar Gözübüyük whistled the easiest half of his career, pointing to the center spot once, after Riyad Mahrez had fired in the 1-0 after unfortunate defending from Josko Gvardiol. Still, a deserved halftime score, judging by the Englishmen’s 74 percent ball possession.
But after halftime, everything was different. Leipzig coach Marco Rose must have filled the locker room with red rags, to sew up his men. Because the Germans came out of the locker room reborn. With guts. And the will to make something of it in front of the home crowd.
City, which had not pressed before halftime and had put itself to sleep, seemed overwhelmed by the German fighting spirit. The tikki-taka was trackless, leaving City in trouble.
With substitute Benjamin Henrichs, the home side had two great chances, but no goal. And Ederson, who before halftime was mainly watching cold in his own half, suddenly had to tap a huge peg from Dominik Szoboszlai out of the crossbar. But at the next cross the City goalie was not quite awake after all.
Gvardiol, one of the best defenders at the World Cup in Qatar, towered over everyone and headed in after Ederson misjudged the cross. Thus the Croatian World Cup star made up for his mediocre defensive performance before halftime. Leipzig got more and more chances, and City got away well a few times.
But slowly City awoke and took back some control. Via Erling Haaland it could still have won, but Norwegian striker who was not invisible for the first time these weeks, produced no more than a roll.
No substitutions at City
City had sporadic chances, a shot by Ilkay Gündogan, for example, which Leipzig goalkeeper Janis Blaswich, an employee of Heracles Almelo last season, cleverly stretched to the ground.
It seemed City were fine with the draw. Guardiola didn’t bother either, leaving all his substitutes on the bench. Leipzig changed as many as five times, keeping the energy and pace of the game high. But the Germans could not deliver more than fight and fighting spirit either.