Manchester City beat a spirited RB Leipzig side 3-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday evening to put themselves firmly top of Group G.
City were utterly dominant throughout the first half, passing the hosts to death and looking incredibly assured at the back. The treble-winners went into the break with a 1-0 lead after Phil Foden converted Rico Lewis’ tempting cross from the right flank, striking the ball into the turf on its way to the top corner.
The second half was not as straightforward for Pep Guardiola’s men though, Lois Openda levelling the scoring shortly after half-time with a calm finish that struck the inside of the post on its way in. But it was the man of the moment Julian Alvarez who rose from the bench to find an important late goal for City, curling a wonderful strike beyond the Leipzig goalkeeper.
Jeremy Doku would put the icing on the cake in added time, with Alvarez setting up the former Rennes man for his first European goal for the Cityzens. Guardiola’s substitutes came up with the good in the end, helping City to a crucial three points on the road.
How the game unfolded
A lot was made prior to kick-off about City’s recent struggles away in Leipzig, but the European champions were typically composed on the ball from the off. In fact, Guardiola’s side managed 88% possession in the opening ten minutes with relative ease.
Unsurprisingly, it was City who created the opening opportunity. The increasingly impressive Lewis saw his effort blocked well, with Foden’s follow-up from 12 yards eventually reaching Bernardo Silva at the far post. However, the midfielder couldn’t redirect the ball goalward from close range.
City’s dominance would soon be rewarded with the visitors taking the lead after 26 minutes at the Red Bull Arena. Lewis’ wonderful cross towards the penalty spot was met by Foden, who slammed the ball into the ground and beyond Janis Blaswich into the top right-hand corner. It was no more than Guardiola’s team deserved.
They say 1-0 is not a comfortable scoreline in football, but if sure felt comfortable for Man City as the first half drew to a close. The Cityzens may not have peppered Blaswich’s goal – although two Erling Haaland crosses did test the Leipzig defence – but they were in complete control throughout the opening 45 minutes.
Marco Rose was clearly missing his talisman Dani Olmo, with Leipzig looking uncharacteristically blunt in forward areas. However, that quickly changed after the break as, out of absolutely nowhere, Leipzig found an equaliser.
Openda was sent through one-on-one with Ederson after a lovely pass from Yussuf Poulsen that pierced the City backline, with the Belgian forward sliding his effort past the onrushing goalkeeper to bring the Bundesliga side level against the run of play just three minutes after the break.
Foden’s devilish deliveries were causing Leipzig plenty of problems, however. The number 47 almost set Haaland up twice with wicked crosses before striking the underside of the bar with a free-kick from the right-hand side.
Just as it looked like Leipzig’s resistance would earn them a hard-fought point, Guardiola’s substitutions combined to break German hearts. Doku laid a ball back to the in-form Alvarez on the edge of the area, with the Argentine digging out a wonderful curled effort to beat Blaswich with 84 minutes on the clock.
Alvarez would combine with Doku again in stoppage time, but it was the Belgian who would add his name to the scoresheet on this occasion. The summer signing was sent through on goal and produced a calm finish to wrap up all three points for the visitors.
GK: Ederson – 6/10 – His only action of the evening was picking the ball out of his net.
RB: Kyle Walker – 7/10 – Strong in and out of possession, regularly exhibiting his pace to mop up Leipzig counter-attacks. Openda and Xavi Simons purposely avoided one-v-one battles with the right-back.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 6/10 – Played the John Stones role, stepping into midfield in possession to overload the centre of the park. Did a solid job in a slightly unfamiliar role.
CB: Ruben Dias – 6/10 – Didn’t do an awful lot wrong, but wasn’t tested enough to show his quality.
LB: Josko Gvardiol – 7/10 – Performed admirably against his former club and looks a perfect fit for this City side.
CM: Rodri – 7/10 – A calming influence in midfield, even if not at his spectacular best. The Spaniard has been missed in domestic competitions and City immediately look much stronger with back.
CM: Rico Lewis – 8/10 – A brilliant performance from the 18-year-old who continues to show maturity well beyond his years. Set up Foden for the opener and was unbelievably composed throughout.
RM: Bernardo Silva – 7/10 – A joy to watch at full tilt and was a consistent outlet on the right flank. Still had a gear or two to find, perhaps.
AM: Phil Foden – 8/10 – Took his goal brilliantly in the first half and made it look a lot simpler than it was. Created the majority of Man City’s second-half chances and flourished in a more central position.
LM: Jack Grealish – 5/10 – A disappointing game for the winger who struggled to cause Mohamed Simakan any problems. Chopped back on his favoured right foot to often and became far too predictable.
ST: Erling Haaland – 5/10 – Snatched at the half-chances that came his way and was pretty much a passenger throughout.
SUB: Nathan Ake (71′ for Akanji) – 6/10 – Did what he needed to when he came on, replacing Akanji in that hybrid midfield role.
SUB: Jeremy Doku (71′ for Grealish) – 8/10 – It’s unfair that City now have a player of his skillset too. Set up a goal and scored one himself to change the game.
SUB: Julian Alvarez (79′ for Foden) – 8/10 – Has become such an important figure for Man City. His goal was sensational and his assist delightful too. What a performance from the bench.
SUB: Matheus Nunes (87′ for Silva) – N/A
Subs not used: Ortega (GK), Carson (GK), Stones, Phillips, Gomez, Kovacic, Bobb.
Pep Guardiola – 8/10 – His substitutions won him the game after Leipzig made life difficult in the second half. The Spaniard made sure his side were comfortable winners in the end with his changes.