Match report as Man City survive first-half scare to win Champions League Group G; Lois Openda stunned the Etihad with two first-half goals before Phil Foden scored and helped set up City's two other goals to complete an impressive turnaround after the break; RB Leipzig settle for second
Wednesday 29 November 2023 06:27, UK
Holders Manchester City beat RB Leipzig 3-2 at the Etihad after a stunning second-half comeback to secure top spot in Champions League Group G.
RB Leipzig striker Lois Openda left the Etihad in a stunned silence after scoring two goals inside 40 minutes to leave his side one goal away from usurping City at the summit of the group. A raft of missed chances only added to the feeling this would not be City's night.
Phil Foden, who had been quiet in a central role, set up Erling Haaland after the break before scoring the equaliser with 20 minutes to go. He also had a hand in the winner as Julian Alvarez - a game-changer for City off the bench with Jeremy Doku - finished off a flowing move that involved 18 passes.
City were not themselves for the first half but recovered from two goals down at half time in the Champions League for the first time to avoid going three games without a win. They secure top spot with a game to spare, while Leipzig have to settle for second in Group G.
Man City: Ortega (5); Walker (5), Aknaji (5), Dias (5), Gvardiol (7), Lewis (7), Rodri (6), Silva (6), Foden (9), Haaland (7), Grealish (5).
Subs: Ake (6), Doku (8), Alvarez (8), Sergio Gomez (N/A).
RB Leipzig: Blaswich (5), Haidara (6), Simakan (6), Klostermann (5), Lukeba (6), Raum (5), Forsberg (6), Schlager (6), Siewald (6), Simons (8), Openda (8).
Subs: Sesko (5), Baumgartner (5), Carvalho (6), Poulsen (5), Kampl (N/A).
Player of the match: Phil Foden.
Man City lost their place at the top of the Premier League over the weekend after back-to-back draws, with the treble winners' form of late encouraging teams around them that they can be challenged.
Guardiola stressed the importance of claiming top spot in Group G as early as possible before the visit of Leipzig. He knows the marginal gain of playing the last-16 second leg at home could be crucial in City's bid to retain their Champions League crown.
Man City made four changes from the 1-1 draw against Liverpool, with Jack Grealish deemed healthy enough to start after recovering from illness.
Josko Gvardiol came into the defence to face his former club for the first time following his £77.6m move to Man City in the summer.
Stefan Ortega started ahead of Man City's first-choice goalkeeper Ederson for his first Champions League appearance of the season while Rico Lewis came into midfield.
There seemed to be a hangover from the 1-1 draw with Liverpool though. Leipzig's back five and narrow four in midfield limited City's space and the German side took full advantage.
City were caught out by a simple ball over the top with Openda stroking a composed finish past Stefan Ortega after a calamitous error by Manuel Akanji. Ruben Dias headed over unmarked minutes later in the first of a string of missed City chances.
Guardiola berated his players at a break in play, but his instructions made no difference, with Leipzig adding a second moments after Rico Lewis blazed over from inside the box. Openda delivering another blow to leave the Eithad in a state of shock.
Dias was guilty of jumping in on his man, who spun him around halfway before sitting down Josko Gvardiol and finishing at the near post, making Leipzig the first visiting side to score more than one goal at the Etihad.
City, at this stage, were just one goal away from seeing Leipzig take control of Group G heading into the final game. When Haaland blazed over before the break, the panic set in for those in blue.
Guardiola acted quickly at half-time, replacing the booked Dias with Nathan Ake. It was his second intervention before the hour that truly turned the game though. Doku and Alvarez, the undoing of Leipzig in the reverse fixture, delivered again.
Haaland pulled the first goal back a minute after the change - becoming the fastest player to 40 goals in the competition - with Alvarez involved in the build-up. Leipzig's resolve crumbled and Foden's brilliance unlocked the defence as he equalised through the legs of Lukas Klostermann.
The third became an inevitability as City found their feet. From an uncharacteristic low in the first, City played some of their best football this season in the second half. Eighteen passes preceded Alvarez's winner as City clinched top spot with a game to spare.
Manchester City's Foden told TNT Sports the first-half performance was the "worst I've seen us".
He added: "Motivation and courage turned it around. This team has great mentality.
"We just needed that [first] goal to get going. Even the fans were a lot louder after the goal. Once the first went in the motivation was there.
"We've got a great record at the Etihad and it only takes one goal to change things."
Asked about his goal: "I've been rushing a few chances but I passed it through the guys legs. Fortunately it went in."
Man City boss Guardiola told TNT Sports: " What happened? That's the Champions League.
"Leipzig is always a team that qualifies for the last-16 the last five or six years. We conceded too much defensively. You have to win the duels and we didn't do it. After that we played so anxiously.
"When you concede two goals you have to remain relaxed as possible. But at the same time we reacted really well in the second half. With one game left we are first in the group and I am very satisfied for the reaction.
"The team runs and fights and had a good spirit."
Asked how he turned things around, he said: "We changed with our press in the second half because it wasn't effective. We didn't expect them to play like that."
Asked if he was worried by the first-half performance, he added: "It's not easy. They played 5-4-1, the spaces were so small. Rico [Lewis] was again exceptional and Phil [Foden] in the final third had decisive movements. I think Jeremy [Doku] changed our rhythm. Julian is a special player close to the box."
On Erling Haaland being the fastest to reach 40 Champions League goals: "He breaks the record. It's good for him."
Manchester City host Tottenham in the Premier League on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off 4.30pm. RB Leipzig host Heidenheim in the Bundesliga at 2.30pm on Saturday.
City complete their Champions League group stage campaign away to Red Star Belgrade on Wednesday December 13; kick-off 5.45pm. RB Leipzig are at home to Young Boys at the same time on the same evening.