Sam Allardyce explains how Leeds overcame ‘fear’ to cause Man City problems; boss ‘disappointed’ by one player’s decision-making
New Leeds United manager Sam Allardyce has admitted he was ‘fearful’ after his team conceded two goals in the first half against Manchester City, though he praised his players for how they responded after the interval.
City dominated in the early stages, with both Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland missing chances before Ilkay Gundogan opened the scoring in the 19th minute. Riyad Mahrez rolled the ball into Gundogan’s path on the edge of the box and the German picked out the bottom corner with a curling effort.
Haaland should have doubled City’s lead soon afterwards following great work by Gundogan and Kevin de Bruyne. But the striker, who has managed 51 goals this season, could only send his left-footed strike just wide.
Instead, it was Gundogan who stepped up and made it 2-0. Mahrez once again played the midfielder in and he beat Leeds goalkeeper Joel Robles by picking out the opposite corner to his first goal.
Leeds went into the break 2-0 down. The Whites got lucky when Haaland hit the outside of the post in the 62nd minute, following an incisive pass by Rico Lewis.
Leeds gradually improved in the second half but were at serious risk of conceding a third goal when substitute Pascal Struijk fouled Phil Foden in the penalty area.
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Gundogan was given the spot-kick so he could get his hat-trick, only for the City skipper to hit the post and squander his opportunity. Just a minute later, a Manuel Akanji mistake put Rodrigo in a great position and he scored to give Leeds hope of a late comeback.
City held on to pick up all three points with a 2-1 home win, although Leeds supporters will be encouraged by the performance from their side, particularly in the second half.
Allardyce encouraged despite Leeds loss
During a post-match interview with BBC Match of the Day (via BBC Sport), Allardyce reacted to the defeat by saying: “In difficult circumstances but accepting the job, you have to do the best you can. It is about being on the training ground for the last week and feeling the adrenaline rush of that and a squad of players we have to make better and as good as we can with four games left.
“It is a difficult challenge but one we have jumped at – me, Karl [Robinson] and Robbie [Keane]. We have to try to get to the position where we can try and win a football match. We take some hope out of today on the second-half performance. Not the first, but the second.
“We now need to build on that and try to get a result. I was slightly fearful, but we sorted it out for the second half and told them they were playing with too much fear. They needed to get on the front foot and try to challenge them.
“Apart from a silly penalty… and a great save by Joel [Robles] that gave us a chance to go up the other end and score. When you see Man City running down the clock for four minutes at the end, you know you have given yourself a chance. We did right until the end, but it didn’t quite happen.”
Allardyce added that he was ‘disappointed’ by Struijk giving away a penalty after coming off the bench. “Without a huge amount of knowledge, barring that from the staff that was already here, we knew we would have to make five subs today. It was disappointing that one of our subs gave the penalty away,” he said.
“The rest came on and kept us going. We were putting fresh legs on and adding energy which helped us create a good goal. Karl was saying, when we were making the last two, there was still 15 minutes to go. But I told him we’d take the risk. It was worth it. We came close, but not close enough.”
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