Manchester City failed to capitalise on their early dominance as Josko Gvardiol salvaged a 1-1 home draw for RB Leipzig in the Champions League last 16.
Pep Guardiola’s side piled the pressure on in the first half of the first leg at Red Bull Arena and Riyad Mahrez fired City into a deserved 27th-minute lead on Wednesday.
But City’s control wavered in the second period as substitute Benjamin Henrichs missed two great chances before Gvardiol earned a share of the spoils with a thumping header after 70 minutes.
Guardiola will be left rueing what could have been after an impressive display in the opening half, leaving it all to play for in the March 14 return leg at Etihad Stadium.
City monopolised possession in the opening stages but created little without absent chief creator Kevin De Bruyne, who missed the Germany trip through illness.
That pressure soon told, though, as Ilkay Gundogan punished a wayward Xaver Schlager pass to find Mahrez, who arrowed into the bottom-right corner from outside the area.
Rodri headed narrowly wide and Jack Grealish blazed over as City threatened to further their advantage, with Leipzig fortunate to go in at half-time just a goal down.
Henrichs should have levelled after the interval, first wastefully heading over before dragging a glorious opportunity wide to the right of Ederson, who denied a fizzing Dominik Szoboszlai strike soon after.
The much-improved Leipzig grabbed a deserved equaliser from Marcel Halstenberg’s resulting corner as Gvardiol powered home, with City’s appeals for a foul falling on deaf ears.
Janis Blaswich then denied a whipped Gundogan effort destined for the bottom-right corner, ensuring it remains all to play for in the return leg in England.
What does it mean? City never do it simply in Europe
City have faltered against Monaco, Tottenham and Lyon in the knockout stages during Guardiola’s tenure, with European ties against supposedly inferior teams haunting the Spaniard’s side.
That did not appear on the cards this time around, though, before Gvardiol – reportedly a target of City and Chelsea – stunned England’s champions in a potential Premier League audition.
With those previous failures clearly on Guardiola’s mind before this clash, with the Spaniard suggesting “nothing will be enough” to silence the doubters, City must respond in the return meeting to stave off another unexpected exit.
Mahrez remains a constant in Guardiola’s City line-up throughout the years, with only De Bruyne (136) and Raheem Sterling (125) bettering his 123 goal involvements in all competitions since his August 2018 debut.
The Algeria international has been involved in 11 goals in his last 12 Champions League knockout starts, while he has scored in all three appearances in Europe against Leipzig.
Haaland’s Leipzig hot streak ends
Haaland scored six goals in his four previous appearances for former side Borussia Dortmund against Leipzig, averaging a goal every 60 minutes in those games.
But the world’s hottest marksman failed to repeat the dose on his return to Germany, with Gvardiol and Willi Orban limiting the striker to no shots on target in a timid showing.
Key Opta Facts:
– Guardiola didn’t make a single substitution in this match – City are the first side to do so in a Champions League match since Manchester United against Juventus in October 2018 under Jose Mourinho.
– Gvardiol has scored in consecutive home matches for Leipzig in the Champions League, against Real Madrid and City. No player has scored more goals at the Red Bull Arena in the competition this season than the Croatian (2).
– Mahrez became the fifth African player to score 20+ goals in the Champions League, after Mohamed Salah (44), Didier Drogba (44), Samuel Eto’o (30) and Sadio Mane (27).
– The Algerian has been directly involved in 12 goals (8 goals, 4 assists) in all competitions since the conclusion of the World Cup; the only Premier League player with more combined goals and assists during this period is Marcus Rashford (16 goals, 4 assists).
City return to Premier League action at Bournemouth on Saturday, when Leipzig host Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga.