Manchester City’s Premier League title challenge stumbled for the second time in their opening three games as Leeds rallied to earn a 1-1 draw from a wide-open game at Elland Road.
City were soundly beaten 5-2 at home by Leicester last weekend and seemed keen to make amends with a dominant start during which Raheem Sterling opened the scoring.
However, despite handing a debut to £62 million centre-back Ruben Dias, Pep Guardiola’s men remained unsure in defence and Leeds levelled when Rodrigo pounced on an error from goalkeeper Ederson just before the hour mark.
City could now find themselves eight points behind Liverpool by the end of the weekend should Jurgen Klopp’s men maintain their perfect start at Aston Villa on Sunday.
A first meeting between Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa in English football was highly-anticipated and did not disappoint in a pulsating game that somehow ended with only two goals.
Guardiola’s men started with intent to quieten their critics as they pounced on Bielsa’s determination for his side to play out from the back by forcing the hosts into mistakes with an intense press.
Despite City’s continued failure to progress beyond the Champions League quarter-finals under Guardiola, Kevin De Bruyne was named UEFA midfielder of the year on Thursday and the Belgian nearly showed why inside three minutes with a stunning effort from a long range free-kick wide on the left that nearly caught out Illan Meslier by hitting his near post.
Ferran Torres had a shot blocked on the line as City cut Leeds open in the opening quarter, but Bielsa’s men could have gone in front when Ezgjan Alioski headed over a great chance.
City’s pressure was finally rewarded in the opener as Sterling cut inside before burying a low shot into the far corner on 17 minutes. However, Leeds composed themselves as the first-half wore on and City’s energy levels dipped.
Luke Ayling should have equalised before half-time when he pounced on Benjamin Mendy’s poor clearance, but failed to beat Ederson one-on-one. Leeds started the second-half as they ended the first, by posing the bigger threat, especially once Bielsa introduced Rodrigo 10 minutes after the break.
The Spanish international gave City a warning shot when his deflected effort came back off the crossbar.
But from the resulting corner, Leeds record signing levelled when Ederson dropped the ball invitingly at his feet. A wild game then raged from one end to the other with neither side settling for a point.
Ederson made amends for his error at the equaliser by turning Rodrigo’s header onto the bar. Moments later, Sterling was racing clear in behind the Leeds defence but ran the ball too close to Meslier, who smothered at the England international’s feet.
City then became the first victims of a change in interpretation to the handball law in the Premier League as a Leeds arm blocked Bernardo Silva’s shot that would surely have resulted in a spot-kick just a week earlier.
Sterling also had strong claims for a penalty turned down moments later as Leeds clung on to continue their fine start to life back in the top-flight.
Bielsa’s men have taken seven points from their opening four games, including clashes with Liverpool and City.