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This was a reminder of more than just how joyless football behind closed doors can be as Manchester City’s defensive frailties in Europe were again exposed and Kyle Walker’s red card summed up an evening full of mistakes and rash decisions.
Walker will miss the first game of the knockout stage after blatantly kicking Andre Silva late in the second half. It was a petulant moment from a senior player which left Pep Guardiola unimpressed. “It was a clear red card,” he said frostily, adding: “It hurts us, especially for the round of 16. Kyle Walker is an important player and it is unnecessary to lose him like this.”
City’s manager was not in a good mood and his team’s propensity to concede too many goals in the Champions League is a concern looking ahead. It is likely to prove far more costly against the other elite sides in knockout games than it has in the group stage, where he argued his side had been “incredible” despite losing two out of their six fixtures, pointing out they had “topped the group with a game to spare”.
City, though, have not kept a clean sheet. They have conceded twice in three of those games for the first time since 2014.
History shows us that, at some point, it is the team that is able to score once and hold on to that lead that tends to win knockout competitions. That is exactly what Chelsea did to City in the Champions League final back in May – they should not need reminding of that.
There is no need to be too critical, merely cautious. City made seven changes to the side and were already assured of top spot. But City and Guardiola have been burned before in knockout games under pressure. They certainly cannot respond like Walker did here.
There were mitigating circumstances, sure. City will hopefully not have to play in these depressing behind-closed-doors conditions again. With Germany in lockdown, as coronavirus cases surged out of control, City were reacquainted with the challenge of playing in an empty stadium and did not cope well.
The visitors’ lack of urgency looked more like a lack of motivation. There was a lack of concentration at the back, too many mistakes, too many loose passes and a general malaise all over the pitch. It was, by some distance, City’s worst performance of the season.
We had become used to this version of football during the worst of the pandemic. City won the Premier League at a canter in these conditions last season, as well as reaching the final of the Champions League. But they appeared to have forgotten how unusual it is; how tricky it can be to play without adrenalin.
On a normal matchday, with the home side needing to match or better Bruges’s result against Paris St-Germain to be certain of a place in the Europa League, the stadium would have been rocking. Hostile and intimidating, City would have walked out into the arena charged up. Even in a game they did not need to win, they would have been desperate to do so because of the environment they were in. It is what the best teams do. Instead, City meandered and dawdled. Leipzig deservedly took the lead and should have put the game beyond Guardiola’s side before half-time.
They certainly had the chances, playing through City’s half-hearted press and, more alarmingly, straight through the middle of their defence.
They had already been stretched, Konrad Laimer, who constantly broke forward from midfield, forcing a sharp save from Zack Steffen at his near post. And the defence was broken by a brilliant through ball from the Austrian with the outside of his foot for Dominik Szoboszlai to run on to. The fact he merely went straight between Nathan Ake and John Stones, before rounding the goalkeeper, embarrassed City.
It should have been two soon after, Emil Forsberg left unmarked inside the area but shooting straight at the City goalkeeper. Steffen also made a brilliant save to keep out Andre Silva’s header from point-blank range when the Portuguese looked certain to score.
City did not get going and their one moment of brilliance came from the otherwise subdued Phil Foden, who hit a low shot, from just inside the area, that Peter Gulacsi brushed on to the post with his fingertips.
City did up the tempo as they chased the game, but the German side scored a second through Andre Silva after a loose pass from Stones had set Forsberg away. It looked like night over.
City’s muscle memory is of winning, though. Chasing the game got their hearts and legs pumping, Riyad Mahrez pulling a goal back with a superb diving header from an inviting Oleksandr Zinchenko cross. Suddenly Leipzig, 11th in the Bundesliga, found City were far harder to deal with. They were hanging on until Walker saw red.
RB Leipzig 2 Manchester City 1, as it happened:
Leipzig deserved that
Man City were always in the match but did not create as many clear chances as the hosts. They lost their heads towards the end of the second half with Walker getting a needless red.
FULL TIME: Leipzig 2 Man City 1
Lots of fouling going on! These sides are not getting along. Adams booked for pushing Grealish to ground. Zinchenko crosses into the arms of Gulacsi from the free kick.
That will be that.
90 mins: Leipzig 2 Man City 1
Sterling catches Simakan while he is on the floor. Referee is not interested.
Leipzig mount an attack but Nkunku is just offside. Grealish looks for Sterling in behind but puts too much on the pass.
There will be three minutes of added time.
88 mins: Leipzig 2 Man City 1
Palmer and Dias are on, replacing De Bruyne and Ake, who looked to be struggling with a back injury picked up a few minutes ago.
86 mins: Leipzig 2 Man City 1
De Bruyne spins on the edge of the box, bending a shot just wide of the goal. Decent effort.
83 mins: Leipzig 2 Man City 1
This 'dead rubber' is heating up. Walker is shown a straight red! He boots Silva from behind with no intention of going for the ball! What was he doing! Well deserved red - and now he will miss the last-16 match. Foolish.
81 mins: Leipzig 2 Man City 1
Grealish cuts onto this right foot after breaking into the box. The ball is deflected behind for a corner.
The corner comes in and City appeal for handball. It does not matter, Mahrez was offside. Stones is booked for dissent.
79 mins: Leipzig 2 Man City 1
Well, City are already through but it is clear that they do not want to be beaten tonight.
Silva drives forward. He crosses to Mukiele who nods the ball down to Forsberg. His shot goes into the empty stands.
Two more Leipzig changes; Brobbey on for Forsberg, Henrichs for Mukiele.
GOOOOOOAAAAAAL! Mahrez Leipzig 2 Man City 1
An early cross from Zinchenko beats the Leipzig defence and Mahrez executes a textbook diving header back into the far corner. What a finish!
76 mins: Leipzig 2 Man City 0
Grealish breaks into the box once again and once again his cross is blocked. City come again, a cross drops in the penalty area and Sterling goes down after he is pushed in the back. A shot then comes in which goes out for a corner. That looked a lot like a penalty and City are furious! No Var intervention comes.
The corner is hacked away again.
74 mins: Leipzig 2 Man City 0
City react quickly, winning a corner. Gundogan drives it low to the front post but it is cleared.
Leipzig are looking threatening on the counter.
Grealish hits a low cross into the arms of Gulacsi. City have not created a clear cut chance all night.
GOOOOOOAAAAAAAL! Silva! Leipzig 2 Man City 0
City lose the ball after a sloppy pass from Stones. Forsberg bursts forward, picking out Silva just inside the box. He takes a touch before hammering the ball into the bottom corner! Outstanding finish!
70 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Walker loses the ball on half-way, allowing Leipzig to stroke the ball around once more. They just want possession at this stage with their lead.
Grealish runs in behind but Gulacsi wins the race to the ball.
68 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Grealish drives into the Leipzig box from the left, earning his side a corner. The corner is headed clear and Mahrez is caught offside as the second ball comes into the box.
City are starting to look a little frustrated.
65 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Change for Leipzig; Adams on for the impressive Laimer.
62 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Ake heads the corner clear but the hosts come again. Fernandinho intercepts the final pass.
59 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Grealish, who has been quiet this evening, finds some space. He drives at the Leipzig box before passing to Gundogan who has his shot blocked.
Leipzig counter, they win a corner after Forsberg's shot was deflected behind.
56 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Gundogan makes a run to the back post but Fernandinho's dinked pass has too much on it. Goal kick.
Gvardiol fouls De Bruyne. Not too much in that. Zinchenko crosses to the back post but Mahrez is offside.
54 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Leipzig mount their first attack of the half. Angelino is picked out but his cross is blocked by Walker. City attempt a counter but the final pass kills the move.
City attack down the left but Sterling is caught just offside.
51 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Sterling finds space in behind once again, and once again his cross is blocked. He is causing problems already. Mukiele then fouls Sterling in a good area for a cross.
De Bruyne's ball into the area is headed away. City on top since the break.
49 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
De Bruyne curls it straight into the wall. Tame attempt. City come again, but Sterling's cross is deflected to the keeper.
47 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Sterling is immediately involved, making a run in behind but giving a free kick away in the process with a push in the back.
Zinchenko finds Gundogan on the edge of the box who trips the midfielder on the edge of the D. Great spot for City.
The second half is under way
Sterling is on, replacing Foden. There is a Leipzig change too, Simakan for Klostermann.
Leipzig are just about good for their lead
It has been an even contest but the hosts were the side to create, and take, a clear chance.
HALF TIME: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Gvardiol commits a foul and the Leipzig players are furious about it! He did pull back Mahrez rather clearly there! City have a free kick in a superb position for an effort on goal. De Bruyne hits the ball towards the top corner but Gulacsi gets a strong hand to it. Good save, it was not quite far enough in the corner to beat the keeper from that range.
Zinchenko tries to pick out Grealish at the front post but the ball is intercepted just in time.
That's the half - no added time.
42 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
De Bruyne plays in Foden who is in plenty of space. From the left hand side of the box he strikes a shot, beating the keeper but hitting the post! Gulacsi just got a faint hand on it.
39 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Leipzig should double their lead! Silva has a header from less than six yards out but somehow Steffen keeps it out! The following shot is blocked and City scramble clear. Steffen is having an impressive outing.
37 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Gundogan releases Foden who looks for the German on the edge of the box. He wins a corner for his side.
De Bruyne once again picks out Ake. The defender makes a better connection this time, but heads it over the bar,
35 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
A lofted ball towards Foden is put out for a corner by Mukiele. De Bruyne bends it towards Ake who cannot get a substantive connection on it.
33 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Szoboszlai and Forsberg play a one-two, Walker beating the former in a race for the ball. City break, but Foden's cross into the box is blocked.
Leipzig are pressed hard by City, forcing them into a loose pass in their own half.
30 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
City are on the back foot after a strong start to the match. Pep Guardiola does not look best pleased.
Nkunku fouls Zinchenko. De Bruyne is then booked for ignoring the referee's instructions - he was trying to take it quickly when told not to. He eventually whips a cross into the box but the header is directed well wide of the goal.
27 mins: Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Laimer breaks forward, hitting a powerful cross into Forsberg who has his half-volley saved by Steffen. He then handballs the ball as it comes back to him. Leipzig very nearly doubled their lead!
GOOOOOOAAAAAAL! Szoboszlai Leipzig 1 Man City 0
Szoboszlai is played in behind, clear of the City defence. He rounds the keeper and strokes it home. Lovely finish. Leipzig lead! Everyone was waiting for an offside flag which never came. The replays show he was just on!
22 mins: Leipzig 0 Man City 0
City have been the better side so far, finding pockets of space in behind with ease. But the hosts have had their moments.
Speaking of which, Leipzig break forward with Forsberg rolling the ball right to Mukiele. He lays it off to Nkunku who plays a deft through ball into the City box. Steffen races off his line to snuff out the attack. Sharp keeping.
City have a chance of their own. Walker hits a low cross into the box and Gulasci punches it away. They attack again, De Bruyne crosses to Foden who taps it to Grealish. His shot from close range is deflected behind for a corner. Stones gives away a free kick as the ball comes into the box.
19 mins: Leipzig 0 Man City 0
De Bruyne hits a cross-shot with venom just over the Leipzig bar after a flowing move from left to right.
City attack once more, Ake hitting a ball over the top but De Bruyne did not anticipate it, making it easy for the hosts to defend.
16 mins: Leipzig 0 Man City 0
Laimer bursts into the right side of the City box. His cross is blocked back to him and he hits a shot at the near post which Steffen puts behind for a corner. Steffen then unconvincingly punches away the resulting corner at the second attempt.
14 mins: Leipzig 0 Man City 0
De Bruyne whips in a ball to the front post which is hacked clear.
Leipzig break down the left. Szoboszlai puts Silva in behind but his cross is blocked. City break and De Bruyne is brought down by Kampl who is booked for the professional foul.
12 mins: Leipzig 0 Man City 0
Mahrez releases De Bruyne with a clever through ball. He hits a low cross which cannot beat the first defender.
Foden bursts past Mukiele who pushes him to ground. Free kick on the edge of the box, decent area for a cross.
9 mins: Leipzig 0 Man City 0
A lofted ball almost finds Forsberg but Zinchenko gets up to head back to Steffen.
7 mins: Leipzig 0 Man City 0
Gundogan gives away a free kick just inside the Leipzig half. The hosts send a long ball over the top but Ake heads it clear.
Walker switches play towards Foden but Mukiele does well to intercept it.
4 mins: Leipzig 0 Man City 0
City catch Leipzig, taking it short quickly, the resulting cross earning another corner. The next set-piece ends with De Bruyne overcooking a cross. Goal kick.
Man City come again, this time Foden is tackled and Leipzig counter. Ake shuts down the attack with a strong tackle.
2 mins: Leipzig 0 Man City 0
Gulácsi's loose pass is picked off by Zinchenko, allowing City to establish a calm phase of possession. They work down the left, Foden winning a corner.
Here we go!
RB Leipzig get us started... no fans here due to rising Covid levels in Saxony.
The players are out onto the pitch
Not long to go now!
Kick-off is 10 minutes away
Will the RB Leipzig players put in a big performance after their manager was sacked just days ago? And how will Kevin De Bruyne fair in his return after having Covid?
Man City tend to enjoy playing against German sides
14 - Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 14 Champions League games against German opponents (W13 D1), winning the last nine in a row by an aggregate score of 28-9. Schadenfreude. #RBLMCI
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 7, 2021
RB Leipzig changed manager on Sunday
RB Leipzig, last season's Bundesliga runners-up, mutually agreed to part company with head coach Jesse Marsch after a poor start to the season on Sunday.
Leipzig suffered a 2-1 defeat at Union Berlin on Friday, their third consecutive league loss, which saw them drop to 11th and piled the pressure on American Marsch.
Marsch, who joined this season to replace Julian Nagelsmann, has seen his team win five of their 14 league games this term.
Assistant coach Achim Beierlorzer will take charge for tonight's encounter against Manchester City.
Man City came out on top back in September
RB Leipzig lost their only previous meeting with Manchester City, conceding six goals in a 6-3 defeat at the Etihad Stadium back in September. This remains the only time they’ve conceded more than five times in a game in European competition.
And this is how the hosts line up this evening
— RB Leipzig (@RBLeipzig) December 7, 2021
Here is the Man City team for tonight
Kevin De Bruyne returns as Pep Guardiola names a strong but much-changed starting line-up.
De Bruyne, recently recovered from coronavirus, is one of seven players to come into the side following Saturday's victory over Watford.
Captain Fernandinho, winger Riyad Mahrez, goalkeeper Zack Steffen and defenders John Stones, Nathan Ake and Oleksandr Zinchenko also come into the side.
Kyle Walker, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish are the only players retained, while youngsters Cole Palmer, James McAtee, Romeo Lavia, Joshua Wilson-Esbrand and Conrad Egan-Riley all make the bench.
Your City XI to face RB Leipzig! 💪
XI | Steffen, Walker, Stones, Ake, Zinchenko, Fernandinho (C), Gundogan, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Foden, Grealish
SUBS | Ederson, Carson, Dias, Sterling, Egan-Riley, Palmer, McAtee, Lavia, Wilson-Esbrand#ManCity pic.twitter.com/IgDRAKNbSV
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 7, 2021
Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport's live coverage of RB Leipzig-Man City
By James Ducker
Pep Guardiola has told Kevin De Bruyne he faces a battle to win back his place at Manchester City.
De Bruyne is due to start against RB Leipzig in City’s Champions League dead rubber in Germany tonight as he bids to build his fitness back up.
The Belgium midfielder returned to action from the substitutes’ bench in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Watford after missing the previous four games after testing positive for coronavirus.
De Bruyne has yet to hit his best form this season after a gruelling past year culminating in the Euros last summer when he aggravated an ankle ligament problem not long after returning from a head injury in the Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.
And with fierce competition for places at the Premier League leaders, Guardiola warned De Bruyne that he cannot expect to walk back into the side.
“He will start and we will see how many minutes he can play,” Guardiola said. “Kevin was growing in his physical condition when he got coronavirus and it was a setback.
“Kevin played all the season from the beginning. He arrived after the Euros last season in a difficult condition and he played and played and played.
“After that he got coronavirus. Now he has to come back and fight for a position like everyone else. But Kevin doesn't have to show absolutely anything to me.
“He has to come back being himself and show himself he's back, and do what he has to do. Like he has done the last five or six years, every single three days.
“Absolutely it's a problem, but of course the competition is so necessary in the team and he knows it, but Bernardo knows it, and [Ilkay] Gundogan knows it, and all the wingers and strikers know it.
“They know they have to play good, playing five minutes, 10 minutes or 90 minutes. I know all of them, they don't have to show me anything. They have to show it for themselves, to play good because they have to.”
The Leipzig game will be played behind closed doors after regional authorities placed the German state of Saxony into partial lockdown due to a state in Covid rates.
With City already confirmed as group winners, Guardiola is expected to involve a number of the club’s academy players, with Cole Palmer and James McAtee both pushing for starts. Romeo Lavia, Josh Wilson-Esbrand and Conrad Jonathan Egan-Riley are also travelling to Germany.