RB Leipzig managed to equalize against Manchester City, setting up a finely-balanced tie for the second leg at the Etihad.
Joško Gvardiol’s header, scored with only 20 minutes remaining, cancelled out Riyad Mahrez’s first-half strike, leaving Pep Guardiola’s team to regret not capitalizing on their dominance in the opening 45 minutes.
City had expectedly dominated possession and territory in the first half, and their goal came when Jack Grealish passed the ball to Mahrez, who curled it into the bottom corner from just inside the box.
Grealish almost doubled their lead with a curling shot that narrowly missed the far post. However, Leipzig improved significantly in the second half, pressing City and forcing them back into their own area.
Benjamin Henrichs had a big chance to score an equalizer when he was played through on goal down the right-hand side, but he scuffed his shot wide of the far post.
Fortunately for Henrichs, his teammate Gvardiol was there to head in Marcel Halstenberg’s cross and level the tie for the second leg on March 14.
That said, they likely should have been awarded an injury-time penalty when Henrichs handled (with both hands) in the area from a last minute corner kick but any appeals surprisingly fell on deaf ears.
Undoubtedly, Pep Guardiola is a brilliant coach, but like most people, he has flaws that can be frustrating.
One glaring example of this was during Manchester City’s underwhelming draw against RB Leipzig, where Guardiola inexplicably refused to make any substitutions even as his team struggled in the second half, particularly after RB Leipzig’s Joško Gvardiol scored an equalizer.
At a time when City desperately needed a boost of energy and creativity to get back into the game, Guardiola chose not to utilize his bench, in stark contrast to RB Leipzig’s Marco Rose who made four substitutions.
This decision was unprecedented, as no coach had made zero substitutions in a Champions League game since José Mourinho did so while managing Manchester United against Juventus in 2018, and it was the first time Guardiola had done so in a Champions League or Premier League game for City.
It was a puzzling decision given that City lacked creativity, control, and a goal, and leaving Phil Foden and Julián Álvarez on the field without any reinforcements was baffling.