In the Zone: Leipzig 1-1 Man City performance analysis
Friday, February 24, 2023
UEFA's Technical Observer panel analyse the German side's comeback after a dominant first-half display from Pep Guardiola's side.
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A game of two halves. It is football's favourite truism and it is a fair way of summing up Wednesday's UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg between Leipzig and Manchester City.
In this analysis brought to you by FedEx, UEFA's Technical Observer panel looks at City's first-half dominance and how Leipzig asserted themselves with more bravery and intensity in the second half.
0-1: Riyad Mahrez (27)
Leipzig paid for a stray pass by Xaver Schlager as they sought to play the ball out and Jack Grealish picked up the loose ball and advanced it to Mahrez who did the rest, running through and sweeping a shot past Janis Blaswich who remained rooted to the spot.
1-1: Josko Gvardiol (70)
From a short corner by Timo Werner, Marcel Halstenberg faced little pressure from the nearest City man as he swung over a cross that Gvardiol, rising majestically above Rúben Dias, met with a powerful header for his second goal of this Champions League campaign.
Player of the Match: Riyad Mahrez
The Algerian's 12th goal of the season was a landmark strike, making him the fifth African footballer to reach the 20-goal landmark in the Champions League. It was not just his goal that impressed the UEFA's Technical Observer panel, who said: "He scored his team's goal and was good with his dribbling. He was always available between the lines and was defensively steady."
Leipzig played in a 4-2-2-2 formation and looked to play a lot through the middle of the pitch. UEFA's match observer noted how Emil Forsberg (10) would try to drop into the midfield with Werner (11) pushing on ahead of him.
At the back, Gvardiol (32) was a pivotal figure for Marco Rose's team, comfortable on the ball and standing up well to the challenge of marking Erling Haaland, allowing him just one chance in the second half – and that on the Norwegian's 'weaker' foot. As well as his goal, he ended the night with more recoveries (11) than any other player on the pitch.
Pep Guardiola set City up in a 3-2-4-1 with Bernardo Silva (20) in a midfield role to the right of Rodri (16). Mahrez (26) was nominally the right winger but played more on the inside, making space for Kyle Walker (2) which resulted in some good attacks from that flank in the first half.
Without the ball, City trying to press with Haaland, assisted by one of the attacking midfielders, yet struggled at times owing to the number of Leipzig players in the middle of the pitch. More than once the German side had a free man centrally but failed to profit.
The analysis of the UEFA match observer focused on City's first-half supremacy, followed by the question of how Leipzig succeeded in changing the flow in the second period when they showed greater courage and increased intensity.
To start with City, in the first period they caused difficulties for their hosts with Mahrez and İlkay Gündoğan drifting into pockets of space and receiving the ball in dangerous positions.
This is clear to see in the first clip of the analysis video above where Halstenberg, the Leipzig left-back, is drawn towards Walker, leaving space behind for Mahrez. With the Algerian taking up positions on the inside, this set Halstenberg the question of which player to mark.
The second clip shows how City built up with three defenders but not a false full-back with Walker higher up the field on the right. With Mahrez inside, on the right of Haaland, City effectively had four midfielders working internally in the first period, helping them control the game.
As this second sequence continues, we see Halstenberg drawn towards Walker once more, meaning that Mahrez has space behind. Forsberg is drawn across to him and this in turn creates a gap for Bernardo Silva to break into. With wonderful balance and close control, the Portuguese sets up a shooting opportunity for Grealish.
The next clip highlights City's willingness to take risks by committing men to attack and leaving their centre-backs to defend 1v1. With five players in or around the box, they have another three shielding behind – in position to protect against the counter – but equally the centre-backs have to be alert to make the interception when Leipzig go long.
We see the same again in the final first-half clip where Manuel Akanji makes an interception to thwart Werner. As City return to the attack, they have Leipzig fully pinned back in their own defensive third.
That was essentially the tale of a first period when Leipzig struggled to maintain a high press and were pushed back into a low block. To underline the point, their average defensive line in the first period was 27.2m. In the second period, by contrast, it was 33.5m because they set the press higher and finally managed to win the ball back in central areas.
The first noteworthy feature among the second-half clips in the analysis video is the role of the Leipzig full-backs, now pushing up the pitch more with Benjamin Henrichs, a half-time substitute at right-back for the more defensive-minded Lukas Klostermann, prominent.
In the first clip he is there when Leipzig win the ball back in the attacking third and then continues a run into the box where he heads over from a cross by his fellow full-back Halstenberg, overlapping down the left. That was eight minutes after the restart and it reflected the game's momentum shift.
The next clip from soon after shows Henrichs miss an even better opportunity, a low shot which flies past the far post, after another move in which Halstenberg is high up on the opposite side. (For the record Halstenberg supplied the most crosses of the game – six, with four of them completed.)
By this stage Leipzig were playing with much more confidence and, with both their full-backs contributing in this way, were now the ones pinning City back
The last two sequences underline how Leipzig turned the tables. In the first, Dominik Szoboszlai swings over a cross and City have everybody bar Haaland defending within 25 metres of their goal – and even the Norwegian is visible in the frame.
In the second, Leipzig press high and force Ederson into a long kick down the field, won by a home defender. Another example of a City team knocked out of their stride, and their comfort zone.
Coach and player assessments
Marco Rose, Leipzig coach: "Two very, very different halves. It just didn't happen in the first half, we just chased the ball and were very bad when we had it. The second was quite different, we were better with the ball, won it back better and played how we had envisioned to play."
Xaver Schlager, Leipzig midfielder: "The second half was the way we wanted to play. In the beginning we wanted to close the spaces down with midfield pressing but they kept the ball very well, overloaded spaces and we didn't get to challenge them."
Pep Guardiola, Man City coach: "[At the end the players'] heads were down. I said, 'Why are your heads down? Have your heads up’. It was really good the game we played. If people don't like it, it doesn't matter, you played the way you should play. You could play a little bit more to Erling [but] when you use these types of action you lose the ball and they run. You have to have the control.
"I didn't come here thinking we'd win 4-0, not for one second I thought about that. The game we played needed control. It's two legs over 180 minutes and I don't want to lose 4-3 here. So, the game will be open in Manchester.
"[On Leipzig] They make a step forward. I said at half-time [that] the manager and the fans will not accept the same again. Their intensity will not be like the first half."