Manchester City – RasenBallsport Leipzig: Erling Haaland Slaughters Lepizig’s Champions League Hopes (7-0)
Manchester City delivered a masterstroke at the Etihad Stadium as they humbled RB Leipzig. Everything Erling Haaland touched turned into gold, but despite the striker scoring on five occasions, it was a team performance and one that emphasized City’s threat both in and out of possession.
Tactical analysis and match report by Rahul Madhavan.
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After a highly entertaining and intense first leg which ended level, Manchester City and RB Leipzig certainly had everything to play for in the second leg. Both managers had their own analogies of how the tie played out, but they were arguably content with the scoreline.
The Etihad Stadium has been a fortress for Guardiola’s Blues as they have lost just once this season. Following a couple of blips, Manchester City’s star-studded squad have looked like their old self lately, with the players moving in harmony and executing their plans to near perfection.
Control is one word the City faithful have been accustomed to in the recent past, and the lineup hinted at control over chaos. Ederson continued in goal, with Guardiola preferring John Stones, Rúben Dias, Manuel Akanji, and Nathan Ake at the back. Rodri, İlkay Gündoğan, and Kevin De Bruyne started in front of them, while Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva, and Erling Haaland comprised the front three.
RB Leipzig, on the other hand, have had an inconsistent ride recently, with defeats to Union Berlin and Borussia Dortmund slowing their rapid progress under Marco Rose. Nonetheless, they dismantled Borussia Moenchengladbach ahead of the crucial knockout encounter against Manchester City.
Rose picked a solid lineup, with Janis Blaswich starting in goal. Benjamin Henrichs, Willi Orbán, Joško Gvardiol, and David Raum completed the back four. Kevin Kampl and Amadou Haidara formed the double pivot, with Konrad Laimer, Emil Forsberg, and Dominik Szoboszlai played ahead of them. Meanwhile, Timo Werner was given the nod upfront.
Manchester City find ways to exploit Leipzig’s shape
Right from the start, Manchester City showed intent both in and out of possession. They shifted to a 3-2-5 structure with the ball, with Stones inverting from full-back alongside Rodri.
Leipzig, meanwhile, settled in a 4-2-2-2 shape out of possession but looked to restrict time on the ball for City’s three center-backs.
Moreover, there was a five-versus-four advantage for City in the first line, and they exploited it in several ways. When one of Leipzig’s forwards pushed higher up to press the center-back, Rodri or Stones were unmarked and City used third-man combinations to pick them out.
The visitors looked to stop their progression by committing one of their double pivots forward. However, this in turn created space for their central midfielders (Gündoğan or De Bruyne) to drift wider and receive possession.
Minute 13: City’s progression from the back. Forsberg closes down Dias, which triggers a series of movements. Laimer jumps onto Ake, while Haidara is forced to press Rodri. As a result, Gündoğan is unmarked and drifts wide to receive the ball and City escape Leipzeig’s press with ease).
One of Stones or Rodri also dropped deeper to create numerical superiority against Leipzig’s front three. They were allowed space to carry the ball and often looked to switch the play to the wingers, who were isolated against the fullbacks.
Minute 9: Stones drifts from midfield to the defensive line, making it a back four. It creates a four-versus-three situation as he is allowed to carry the ball. Gündoğan makes a run from halfspace, which creates space for Grealish on the left flank.
Eventually, City found their opening goal courtesy of a spot-kick. Henrichs was deemed to have handled the ball, and Erling Haaland stepped up and calmly converted the penalty to help his side take a well-deserved lead.
City’s press suffocates Leipzig
While Manchester City went about their business in possession, it was intensity and structure out of possession that created massive problems for their opponents. They began in a 4-2-4 shape, which is certainly not a surprise, but Guardiola made a few interesting tweaks.
To restrict Leipzig’s ability to progress through the middle, Guardiola instructed Haaland and De Bruyne to remain tight on Leipzig’s double pivot. Meanwhile, it was the wingers (Grealish and Silva) who looked to close down the center-backs, while the fullbacks (Stones and Ake) were tasked to push higher up the pitch to restrict space for Leipzig’s fullbacks.
It is important to note that both Silva and Grealish made angled runs and used their cover shadows to block the passing lanes. This essentially reduced options for the player in possession and they were eventually forced to clear the ball.
Minute 11: Manchester City’s press. When Gvardiol receives the ball, Silva makes a curved run while closing him down to block the passing lane to Raum. If Stones moves wider to mark Raum, City shift across to one side, with Rodri on Szoboszlai and Gündoğan on Forsberg.
City’s quick closing down led to their second goal of the night. This time, it was Haaland who initiated the press, which in turn meant that Gündoğan moved higher up the pitch to take Haaland’s role.
Blaswich was forced to clear and ultimately the ball found De Bruyne’s feet, whose thunderous effort hit the post and fell kindly to Haaland.
Following the second goal, Leipzig crumbled under pressure and faced City’s wrath throughout the game. City created overloads in crucial areas of the pitch, while the home side’s shape out of possession also created massive problems for Leipzig.
Furthermore, they exposed Leipzig’s poor marking from set pieces, with the hosts scoring three goals from corners. Ultimately, four became five, five became six, and six became seven, as Marco Rose cut a forlorn figure on the touchline.
Although there was improvement defensively when Rose decided to shift to a back three towards the end of the game, the damage was already done and City certainly took the foot off their gas after dismantling their opponents.
There were a few eyebrows raised when Pep Guardiola named his starting lineup. However, all those doubts were put aside once Manchester City arrived on the pitch and blew away their opponents. After humbling RB Leipzig, the Spanish manager spoke highly about his side’s pressing, despite Erling Haaland stealing the limelight with five goals to his name.
With the victory, City secured a place in the quarter-final of the Champions League for the sixth season running, but they will be aware of the difficulties from here on.
This defeat will be hard to take for RB Leipzig. Their lack of cohesion and organization on the defensive end proved to be their downfall. They looked out of ideas both in and out of possession and there was undoubtedly a gulf in class between the sides.
Nonetheless, they have crucial games coming up and Rose will look to restore his squad’s confidence after a disappointing night in the Champions League.
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