Manchester City saw their march towards a third Premier League title in four seasons temporarily halted as Leeds United produced an upset at the Etihad Stadium this afternoon.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side ended the game with 10 men but secured the club’s first top-flight away win at Man City since January 2001 thanks to a 2-1 victory, in the process boosting their chances of a top half finish.
Moments after Stuart Dallas had put Leeds ahead against the run of play, captain Liam Cooper saw red just before half-time for a high tackle on Gabriel Jesus. As you can expect, Man City huffed and puffed and finally got their reward deep into the second half when Ferran Torres ended a nine-game scoring drought.
But the game took another turn when Dallas popped up to record a famous win in stoppage time. As the dust begins to settle, here are five things we learned from this incredible encounter.
1. Long-range specialist
Heading into this weekend’s game you expected nothing less than a fearless Leeds performance. Marcelo Bielsa’s side aren’t exactly renowned for being pragmatic, which explains why their games are some of the most entertaining in this season’s Premier League. But early on against Man City it became apparent they wouldn’t be seeing much of the ball as Guardiola’s men controlled proceedings albeit never quite troubling Illan Meslier or placing him under a sustained period of pressure. And that proved costly near the stroke of half-time when a speculative effort from defender-cum-midfielder Stuart Dallas found its way past Ederson.
It happened to also be Leeds’ first attempt on goal all game as well as their 27th strike outside Elland Road during this campaign, putting them only behind Man City (30), Liverpool (29) and Leicester City (28) when it comes to producing the goods on the road. Another interesting aspect of Dallas’ strike was this being Leeds’ 11th goal from outside the box (seven of those coming away from home, with Dallas himself responsible for 43% of the entire total) which is a Premier League high.
2. Evergreen Fernandinho
Second-guessing a Guardiola team selection is fast-becoming a futile exercise but given the Premier League leaders are currently fighting on multiple fronts, it’s to be fairly expected. Then again seeing Rodrigo, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Rúben Dias and Ilkay Gündogan as subs was eyebrow-raising. Dias, arguably the league’s standout central defender in Virgil van Dijk’s absence, starting on the bench meant a different partner for John Stones and in this instance it was a welcome return.
After missing 16 of Man City’s last 17 league outings due to a hamstring injury, Nathan Aké, a summer acquisition from Bournemouth, returned to first-team Premier League duties. His previous six outings saw Guardiola utilise him either in central defence or at left-back where Benjamin Mendy, a former Bielsa pupil at Marseille, started, meaning Oleksandr Zinchenko returned to a midfield spot which skipper Fernandinho anchored ever so well even in defeat.
The 35-year-old Brazilian, who has been sparsely used this season, was stationed in front of Stones and Aké but despite the position he was was given the licence to maraud forward as often as possible. There were times he echoed the Man City boss at his pomp with the way he glided before setting up a pass. He ultimately completed 60 total passes in the opposition half whilst creating no fewer than five chances. He should have seen one of those converted minutes before the break when Raheem Sterling dragged a shot wide from close range. When the visitors went a man down Fernandinho became more ambitious going forward most notably producing a scintillating effort from distance but even he couldn’t prevent what transpired late on. It was nevertheless a standout performance and on days like this you can understand why Fernandinho who is expected to depart at season-end has already received offers for his services from Brazil and Europe.
3. Second half woes
Leeds are the first ever opposition team to win at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League having played 45+ minutes with 10 men.
A Marcelo Bielsa masterclass. ? pic.twitter.com/70XVTCJ8gS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 10, 2021
Going into the break you fancied Man City turning it around. Everything was in their favour and when Ferran Torres equalised with just over 10 minutes remaining, a comeback seemed nailed on. Earlier in the week against Borussia Dortmund the hosts showed they’re more than happy to leave it very late but what befell Die Schwarzgelben would be experienced first-hand by the Premier League leaders.
Dallas’ winner in the 90th minute, which incredibly proved to be Leeds’ second effort on goal all game, meant Bielsa’s men became the first side to leave the Etihad with all three points despite playing with ten men for over 45 minutes. It also compounded another unflattering statistic on the hosts. Man City have now failed to win their last 10 Premier League matches when trailing at half-time, a shocking tale when you consider their wealth in attack. Consequently this also ends a 41-game unbeaten run against newly promoted sides at the Etihad which stretched all the way back to a 2-0 loss to Reading in February 2007 under Stuart Pearce.
4. Guardiola’s kryptonite
Since being appointed Man City boss, after enjoying unprecedented success in Spain and then Germany, very few Premier League clubs have resisted Guardiola’s wrath. In fact, heading into this weekend’s showdown, the eccentric Spanish tactician had registered at least one win against 75 of the 77 opponents he’s faced in English football’s top division.
Leeds, who held Man City to a 1-1 draw earlier this season, were part of that very exclusive group. By triumphing against the odds they still remain card-carrying members of the ‘Guardiola can’t beat us in the Premier League’ club alongside Middlesbrough, whom the Spaniard has previously faced twice subsequently drawing both games. Next season presents another opportunity to beat Leeds but given Boro’s current placing in the Championship — nine points below the playoff spots with six matches remaining this season — Guardiola might have to wait a while before erasing that blemish from his record.
Guardiola though wasn’t the only Man City representative potentially in line to improve a Premier League record this weekend. A strike from Sergio Agüero would have meant the Argentine marksman scoring against 33 of the 34 teams he’d face in English football’s top flight. However, a lack of involvement this afternoon (and in the previous meeting) means Bolton Wanderers remain the only Premier League side from 33 faced he’s failed to score past. Considering the former Atlético Madrid star is leaving this summer — presumably returning home though Barcelona and even Paris Saint-Germain are potential destinations — and Bolton are currently playing in League Two we can safely assume Agüero will not be celebrating a strike at their expense at the highest level.
5. Standing on the shoulders of Red Devils
Every single person in a Leeds jersey today should be commended for this result but no one deserves greater plaudits than Dallas who has truthfully been enjoying a stellar campaign. The 29-year-old is the definition of a utility player, playing across no fewer than six positions this season and on each occasion you don’t hear any fuss. His unselfish mentality, putting team before individual, has endeared him to supporters and pundits alike which makes events of today feel so profound.
For just one day Dallas belongs in the spotlight. He’s the first opposition midfielder to score two or more goals at Etihad in the Premier League since Paul Pogba in 2018 (another game which famously saw Sterling have an off day). Equalling the feat of a Manchester United player doesn’t stop there. By beating Ederson for the second time Dallas became the first player to score a 90th-minute winner away to Man City since Robin van Persie for the Red Devils in December 2012.