Manchester City must not have liked the way their name looked next to the number “2” in the Premier League table. Just five hours after Liverpool’s victory at Newcastle United sent them top of the table, the reigning champions returned to the summit. Leeds United showed plenty of spirit and no shortage of endeavour, but City’s quality shone through during an atmospheric evening at Elland Road.
Comparisons to Steven Gerrard’s title-dropping slip were narrowly avoided when Joao Cancelo hit the deck. Rodrigo seized upon the mistake, but went wide with his run and left his cross far too late. The chance was snuffed out, and it would be a while before Leeds received another.
Chances are never a rare commodity for this Manchester City side, and they took one soon enough. After a couple of early sighters, Phil Foden whipped a free kick in for Rodri to glance home. It was perfect from both provider and scorer, the cross perfectly-pitched for Rodri’s subtle nod.
A clash between Robin Koch and Aymeric Laporte left both men down for several minutes. Thankfully they were both okay, and after a concussion check they were both permitted to play on.
City had another good chance when Cancelo switched the play imaginatively from right to left to find Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian came in on his right foot but scuffed his shot, and Ilan Meslier had the bare minimum to do to keep it out.
Stuart Dallas lunged into a challenge with Jack Grealish and came off far worse. The Leeds cult hero was stretchered from the field, and replaced by Daniel James. The injury was the home side’s second of the day, after they lost Liam Cooper in the warm-up.
Taken like a striker 💪
Rodrigo once again started a half with attacking intent, but this time his fine dribble was nullified by a weak cross. Like in the first half, it was a squandered opportunity Leeds would soon regret.
Ruben Dias headed the ball down to keep a corner kick alive and Nathan Ake seized upon the knockdown. He didn’t have much to do, but he took what was a rare goal nicely. The City celebrations were impassioned, with the champions conscious that every win counts as they go blow-for-blow with the equally-consistent Liverpool in the race for the title.
Raphinha tried to do it on his own with a moment of pure brilliance. He sent Riyad Mahrez and Rodri the wrong way as he raced in from the right wing. He cut inside and shaped to shoot but saw his shot subject to a phenomenal block from Laporte. It was a defensive intervention City celebrated as vociferously as a goal, such was its importance.
Just when Leeds were showing signs of resurgence, City’s own comeback kid made it 3-0. Gabriel Jesus has enjoyed some of his best form in a City shirt this season, and he added to that tally with a goal here. Foden slipped a smart pass through the Leeds defence and the Brazilian brought it under his spell and slammed it home.
City added an exclamation mark with mere seconds of injury time remaining. There were shouts for a penalty when Luke Ayling put his arm on Raheem Sterling’s back. But the Leeds clearance trickled out to the great veteran Fernandinho, who hit the net with a decent finish. It will be another memory for the veteran midfielder to look back on when he leaves the Cityzens at the end of the season.
The top two teams playing in a league of their own is nothing new, and we are likely to see a lot more of this one-upmanship during these final few weeks. Both City and Liverpool proved today that, even while rotating with the Champions League in mind, they are only really a match for each other. Sure, it’s a two-horse race. But it is one of thoroughbred quality.