Ederson’s mistake hurt Man City, but their attack is more of a problem
LEEDS, England — It was a mistake from Ederson that allowed Leeds United to claim a 1-1 draw with Manchester City at Elland Road on Saturday, but Pep Guardiola need only look at the other end of the pitch to understand the reason behind the result.
After a breathtaking game manufactured by two of the world’s most revered coaches in Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Biesla, City had managed 23 shots at goal. The problem was that only two were on target and only one went in.
Without Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus, City are struggling for goals. By the end Guardiola’s team had been reduced to frantically appealing half-penalty shouts and taking pot shots from distance while Leeds scampered down the other end looking for a winner of their own.
At one point, Raheem Sterling, who put City ahead in the first half with his first Premier League goal of the season, raced through but couldn’t even get a shot away before he was smothered by Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier. You got the feeling that had that chance fallen to Aguero, it would have been 2-1 and City would have left with all three points. With no sign of another striker arriving before Monday’s transfer deadline, Guardiola will be desperate to have him back.
“We had really good moments in the first 30 minutes that we could make a bigger margin in our result,” admitted the City boss.
Leeds, meanwhile, continue to earn new admirers. After four games, two of them against Liverpool and City, they are fifth in the table, having scored nine goals and conceded eight. Their first season back in the top flight since 2004 is going to be fun.
“We played our part for the game to be beautiful but City also played a huge part in making the game beautiful,” said Biesla. “Physically, mentally, technically it is a very powerful team. They played with a natural incline to attack. It was a very intense game.”
Guardiola said beforehand having Biesla — the man he “admires most in world football” — in the Premier League is “good for England” and It was fitting that their first meeting on these shores was played in typically English conditions. Guardiola vs. Bielsa, two exponents of beautiful football, felt like it deserved a more exotic backdrop than a Yorkshire October chill and pouring rain — the spectacle was akin to ordering a pina colada in a working men’s club.
If the weather was a disappointment, the football was certainly not. Two teams determined to pass out from their goalkeeper and apply a ferocious press on the edge of the opposing penalty area when they didn’t have the ball will usually make for an entertaining game and the risk, reward, mistakes and chances made for a thrilling 90 minutes.
Kevin De Bruyne hit the post with a free kick after three minutes that almost caught out Meslier after he had strayed too far. It sparked a period of City dominance and by the time they took the lead after 17 minutes, they had already had eight attempts.
The goal when it came was typical Sterling. In from the left, a feint to shift a defender, then a right-foot shot that nestled in the far corner. It was a goal of beautiful simplicity but unfortunately for Guardiola, it was the only piece of genuine attacking quality his team could muster.
Ederson had ensured they went in at half-time a goal up after producing a fine save from Luke Ayling after the Leeds right-back had made the most of a mistake from Benjamin Mendy. But it was the Brazilian who was responsible for the equaliser, dropping Kalvin Phillips’ corner at the feet of Rodrigo, who spun and scored just three minutes and six seconds after coming on as a substitute.
“The mistake is part of the human being,” said Guardiola. “Also we create four or five chances to score. In 12 years in the press conference I never say we lost because of this one [mistake] and that one.”
It was clear where he thought the game had been decided.
Ederson at least atoned with an acrobatic stop from a Rodrigo header that looked destined for the top corner, and It said everything about Guardiola’s concern for Leeds’ ability to break quickly that two of his changes were defensive. First, Nathan Ake came on for Mendy before Fernandinho replaced Riyhad Mahrez.
Ederson was needed again nine minutes from time when Patrick Bamford went through, and the final whistle blew with Leeds just edging the possession stats. Not many teams do that to Guardiola, let alone one that was playing in the Championship last season.
A bigger concern for City is that they could find themselves eight points behind Liverpool by Sunday evening if Jurgen Klopp’s champions win at Aston Villa.
“I know we have to win games to be on top but I am not going to start, after three games, to start to think if we are going to win the league,” said Guardiola. “It is what it is. I know the situation — where we are, how we finish last season, the players we have. I am more than satisfied with what we have done so far. You know how tough the league is and how opponents don’t drop much.”
Guardiola is far too experienced to panic after three games, but he will feel far more comfortable when Aguero and Jesus are back.