While Manchester City might have gone about things the hard way on Saturday afternoon, the Sky Blues claimed a 2-1 victory against Leeds at the Etihad.
Storming their way to a 2-0 lead when heading into the half-time break as Ilkay Gundogan bagged a classy brace, it appeared that is was set to be another routine display for Pep Guardiola’s side.
However, with Gundogan missing out on the chance to claim a first Premier League hat-trick after missing from the penalty spot, Leeds certainly set up a nail-biting ending as second-half substitute Rodrigo halved the deficit just 58 seconds after Gundogan’s spot-kick miss.
Nevertheless, with City dragging themselves over the finish line and extending their unbeaten run to 20 games across all competitions, Guardiola’s side now have a four-point buffer over Arsenal.
While the Premier League giants might be in pole position to claim a third straight domestic crown, Saturday’s guests now face a real uphill battle in their bid to avoid the drop.
Although new boss Sam Allardyce might have known that he faced a monumental challenge in his first game in charge of Leeds, the Yorkshire-based outfit have collected just a single point from any of their last six Premier League appearances.
In a showdown between two sides who are firmly battling it out at opposite ends of the table, we have taken a look at the main talking points from Saturday’s battle at the Etihad.
It is now officially City’s title to lose
While Manchester City might have marked their return from March’s international break facing a real battle in a bid to defend their Premier League crown, Guardiola’s superstar squad have certainly hit top gear at a crucial time.
Heading into this weekend’s fixtures after eventually breezing their way to a 3-0 romp against West Ham on Wednesday night, the ex-Barcelona boss has only seen his side continue to shine over the past few months.
Now holding a four-point buffer over title rivals Arsenal and riding what has been a stellar wave of momentum, the Sky Blues now have their sights firmly set on completing a famous silverware sweep.
Punching their Champions League semi-final ticket on April 19th as they stormed their way to a 4-1 aggregate romp against German giants Bayern Munich, Saturday’s hosts are sat in pole position to be crowned domestic and European champions in 2023.
Unbeaten in each of their last 20 straight appearances across all competitions – a run that stems all the way back to a 1-0 loss away at Tottenham on February 5th – Guardiola’s side have only underlined why they’re regarded to be among the Premier League’s greatest dynasties.
With their Champions League semi-final showdown against Real Madrid fast approaching in midweek, it is hard to find any club that will be able to stop Manchester City over the final few weeks.
Allardyce faces what is one of his toughest gigs
With many across the Premier League surprised to see the Leeds hierarchy appoint Allardyce on a four-game deal earlier in the week, the one-time England boss will be more than aware that he faces a huge uphill struggle over the final few weeks.
While the veteran boss might have certainly gained a reputation for his ability to bring clubs back from the brink of Premier League relegation, even Allardyce will know that there is only so much he can do after arriving in Yorkshire a few days ago.
Facing what was always going to be a monumental challenge when they traveled to the defending Premier League champions on Saturday afternoon, it is no secret that many around Elland Road have accepted their fate.
Only continuing to gain a reputation for their rather glaring defensive issues and knowing that they could easily finish Monday’s fixtures sat back in the bottom-three, things certainly don’t get any easier for a Leeds side that have now collected just a single point from their last six Premier League appearances.
Suffering thumping defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Crystal Palace on their nightmare spell, Allardyce’s side will be next seen when they welcome Champions League contenders Newcastle to town next weekend.
Gundogan almost goes from hero to villain
While it might be the record-breaking Erling Haaland who has stolen most of the Premier League headlines this season, it was City’s midfield veteran that proved to be the difference maker here.
However, although Gundogan might have bagged a wonderful first-half brace from outside the box, the ex-Borussia Dortmund ace quickly became Saturday’s villain in just the space of a few minutes.
Missing from the spot and denied the chance to claim a first Premier League hat-trick, Guardiola was visibly frustrated on the touchline that Haaland had been removed from spot-kick duties without his blessing.
With Rodrigo then converting down the other end just 58 seconds after the German international hit the woodwork, there is no doubt that Gundogan was the most relieved man in Manchester to hear the final whistle.
Taken off in the final few seconds and with Guardiola clearly unimpressed with City’s veteran midfielder, the former Barcelona boss will know that he can not allow any complacency to settle into his squad.
Manchester City: Ederson, Akanki, Laporte, Ake, Lewis, Gündoğan, Mahrez, Alvarez, De Bruyne, Foden, Haaland
Subs: Silva, Rodri, Walker
Leeds: Robles, Ayling, Nissen, Wober, Firpo, McKennie, Roca, Harrison, Forshaw, Gnonto, Bamford
Subs: Rodrigo, Greenwood, Summerville, Aaronson, Struijk
Goals: Manchester City: Gundogan (19’, 27’) – Leeds: Rodrigo (85’)
Yellow Cards: McKennie, Gnonto, Rodrigo
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Andy Madley
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