Leeds – Man City saw Marcelo Bielsa, the teacher, take a point from Pep Guardiola, the prodigal student, in an enthralling, heart-pounding 1-1 draw in the Premier League at Elland Road on Saturday.
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Raheem Sterling and Rodrigo Moreno scored the goals, but it was the endless number of unconverted scoring chances that had fans of both sides on the edge of their seats.
3 things we learned: Leeds – Man City
1. Man City improving as they recover: It turns out that Man City still have a hugely talented squad, when said squad is fit and healthy to play. Pep Guardiola had just 13 first-team players available for last weekend’s loss to Leicester City. Fast-forward just six days, and he had 16 following the returns of Bernardo Silva and Aymeric Laporte, and this week’s signing of Ruben Dias for $84 million. City were far from their best on Saturday, but Laporte changed everything defensively and Dias looks like he’ll be the quality partner Laporte deserves. On the whole, they were better and more organized, though their typical level of precision and perfection still eludes them.
2. Leeds more than just a spirited squad: The preseason narrative surrounding Leeds was that Bielsa would have his team prepared and drilled to the nth degree, that they would fight for every scrap and the squad would embody Bielsa’s cult-like fighting spirit. Through four games, all of these things have proven true, but so has one other key point: this is a team and a squad full of players who belong in the PL. Sure, they work harder than most players with more individual talent, but they’re not less talented than, say, Fulham, Burnley, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion or Newcastle United.
3. Title-race complications: It’s early — very early — but City are quickly falling into a hole as Liverpool enjoy a perfect start to the season. Having played the same number of games until tomorrow, City will find themselves five points and eight places behind the Reds.
Kevin De Bruyne went inches from scoring a nailed-on Goal of the Season nominee after only three minutes, but the brilliant Belgian was denied a fabulous free-kick goal by the post. Illan Meslier was well and truly beaten to his right-hand post as De Bruyne whipped a vicious curler from near the corner of the 18-yard box. Alas, the post proved the 12th and final defender Leeds so desperately needed.
City didn’t have to wait too terribly long for their opening goal, as Sterling provided another moment of typical magic in the 17th minute. After receiving the ball wide of the penalty area, Sterling raced past a pair of defenders and unloaded a delightful curled shot toward the far post.
Ederson made a key save to keep City ahead in the 37th minute, when Stuart Dallas was slipped through by a very clever through ball. Dallas took one too many touches, though, which gave Ederson the extra half-second to rush off his line and position himself for the save. If the shot came out one touch earlier, Leeds might have been level at 1-1.
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The Brazilian came up even bigger in the final seconds of first-half stoppage time. Benjamin Mendy made a critical error on a long diagonal ball to Luke Ayling on the edge of the box. Mendy effectively cushioned the ball and played Ayling in on goal with his first touch. Ederson had far less time to read and react, but turned the chance away one-on-one.
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Ederson’s strong performance came all the way unraveled in the 59th minute as he gifted Leeds their equalizer with an inexcusable gaffe. Leeds were deserving of their goal, to be fair, but a simple catch and hold of an innocuous corner kick would have done the job for Ederson. Instead, he spilled it off the back of Mendy right in front of goal.
City unleashed a barrage of speculative, late-game shots as their desperation for a late winner grew, but the likes of De Bruyne, Sterling and Silva failed to find the back of the net.