PEP GUARDIOLA showed once again he is the man with the Midas touch as Manchester City stormed back to secure top spot.The sloppy treble winners were in danger of relinquishing their grip on the group as Leipzig raced into a two goal lead at the break.
Alvarez’s goal completed the comebackCredit: Reuters
He made no mistake with a chance to make it 3-2Credit: Reuters
Man City have turned it around 🔥From two-down, to 3-2 up, they complete the comeback with an absolutely magnificent passing move 😮💨#UCL pic.twitter.com/yj9DsRfc74— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) November 28, 2023
But the Etihad chief made three subs in the opening minutes of the second half to inject new life into his sleepy side.
And one of the replacements – Julian Alvarez – popped up with the late winner – slamming home after a low cross from Phil Foden.
It was the England midfielder who inspired the fightback with a dazzling second half – setting up another for Erling Haaand and grabbing one himself.
Now they can travel to Serbia in two weeks time knowing their place among the top seeds in next month’s draw is secure.
Yet what a scare they were given. It is five years since they last lost at home in this competition and the record looked in grave danger here.
With a point still needed to secure top spot the City boss surprisingly wheeled out some of his big guns.
The treble winners are in the middle of a tough run of Prem fixtures – with more to come against Tottenham and Aston Villa.
So his selection was unexpected given that City put seven past Leipzig here in March and his team were unbeaten in 17 matches in this competition.
Foden’s equalliser showed his classCredit: AP
His finish showed exactly what he’s capable ofCredit: AP
City dominated possession but it was by no means easyCredit: The Sun
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The way City started the game suggested it would be a comfortable night with Bernardo Silva going close early on.
But against the run of play the visitors took the lead and it was so sloppy from the champions.
A long punt from keeper Janis Blaswich was not dealt with by Manuel Akanji and Lois Openda got in behind him.
The Belgian still had plenty to do but finished brilliantly – just as he did when the teams met in Germany last month.
It was a big boost for the visitors but City had a chance to hit straight back but Ruben Dias headed over from inside the six yard box.
England new boy Rico Lewis picked up a pass from Josko Gvardiol and turned smartly before blasting his shot inches too high.
City were not at their best but seemed to be getting closer – but Leipzig stunned the Etihad by doubling their lead just after the half hour.
It was more uncharacteristically poor defending as Openda spun away from a half-hearted challenge from Dias on the half way line.
Haaland extended his wonderful recordCredit: AFP
Leipzig largely hit City on the counterCredit: The Sun
He ran the length of the pitch and kept his cool, turning inside Gvardiol before rifling past second string keeper Stefan Ortega.
Leipzig paid a club record fee which could hi £38 million to take Openda from Lens in the summer – several English clubs will be keeping an eye on him.
All of a sudden, City were in danger of surrendering top spot in the group and their five year unbeaten record at home in this competition was in jeopardy.
If the top two finish level, then head to head comes into play and that made it all square over the two games.
Haaland – who scored five in this fixture last season – fired his shot miles over after Lewis pushed it into his path.
Leipzig are the team Haaland has scored against most in his career but he was not finding it so easy this time as he saw a header saved by Blaswich.
Yet a disastrous half for City could have got worse for City with Dias – already on a yellow card – lucky to escape a second for a foul on Xavi Simons.
Perhaps it was not surprising the Portuguese – who had endured one of his worst halves for the club – did not reappear for the second half, replaced by Nathan Ake.
Openda’s brace had City sweatingCredit: Getty
Foden, who netted the equaliser, was busy all over the pitchCredit: The Sun
And within 10 minutes of the restart he had made two more changes – throwing on Jeremy Doku and Alvarez to try to liven up his team.
Within a minute they were back in it as Phil Foden slipped a pass through to Haaland who worked it onto his left peg and burying it.
That’s 40 goals in 35 games in this competition for Haaland – 10 fewer than Ruud van Nistelrooy who previously held the record.
His 19th in all comps this season put a different complexion on the game and it was no surprise when City pulled level.
Gvardiol was involved against his old club, sliding a pass through to Foden who pushed it past a defender before rolling a shot past Blaswich.
And the comeback was complete as Doku played in Foden down the left and his low cross was slammed home by Alvarez.
Here’s how the action unfolded… More