Julian Alvarez and Jeremy Doku should be automatic starters for Manchester City

Erling Haaland and Julián Álvarez - Man City complete comeback to beat RB Leipzig and top Champions League group – latest reaction
Julián Álvarez (right) grabbed the late winner for Manchester City after the European champions had trailed by two goals - AP/Dave Thompson

With a five-year undefeated run at stake, Pep Guardiola called for two players off the bench who are now making a compelling case to be automatic starters for Manchester City’s strongest team. Julian Alvarez scored the winner and Jérémy Doku played a significant part in a dramatic comeback victory.

‌Not since 2018, when Lyon beat them, have City tasted defeat at the Etihad in the Champions League and they have not been pushed much closer than this. RB Leipzig looked likely to end that record when Lois Openda got behind their backline twice in the first half.

‌The game turned nine minutes into the second half when Guardiola called for Alvarez and Doku, who replaced Jack Grealish and Kyle Walker. “Jeremy changed our rhythm and Julian is a special player,” said Guardiola. Alvarez had a hand in Erling Haaland’s equaliser, Phil Foden levelled and Alvarez scored the decisive goal with help from Doku.

Erling Haaland scores with a left foot shot
Erling Haaland claws one back for the champions - REUTERS/Carl Recine

City’s signings usually take a year to settle, with the players needing time to adjust to the demands of Guardiola, yet Doku slipped into this team easily. His pace gives Guardiola a different mode of attack, as he often goes for the most direct route to goal while dribbling at speed.

Alvarez, meanwhile, was often an understudy to Haaland last season but can also play with City’s main striker. More accurately, he can play behind him, as a No 10, linking play from midfield to attack but also finding himself in the penalty area to finish moves as he did here in the 87th minute. The Argentina forward’s eight goals this season is a healthy return for his 15 starts.

His winner meant City have topped their group for the seventh consecutive year and will get a favourable draw in the round of 16 when it is made next month. They have not lost a home match of any description for more than a year – since before the World Cup – and after the wake-up calls in the first half, Guardiola was pleased with the reaction sparked by his substitutes.

“We had to be relaxed as possible and we reacted really well,” said Guardiola.  “We are first in the group and I am very satisfied for the reaction at the end. The team runs and fights and has spirit.”

For all their technical ability, Leipzig’s opening goal came from a classic route-one move. Janis Blaswich launched a ball downfield and Openda did the rest. The Belgian used his body to nudge Manuel Akanji out of the way without fouling, then raced through to finish into the bottom corner past Stefan Ortega.

To double the lead, he used his body again to get past Ruben Dias after Simons had passed the ball down the left flank. Dias had already been booked for a high boot and simply could not afford to follow his instinct and bring his opponent down on the halfway line. Openda sped towards the penalty area and cut inside Josko Gvardiol before placing his finish in at the near post.

“First half was the worst I’ve seen us,” said Foden. “Courage and motivation courage changed it around. This team has great mentality and its so nice to see. We’ve got a great record at the Etihad and it only takes one goal to change things.

Marco Rose, the Leipzig manager, felt that his team’s performance merely provoked City into a response. “We made them angry in the first half and I told them it would be difficult,” he said. “We saw this in the second half. If we kept the clean sheet a little longer, the chance would be bigger to take something home but we missed a little bit of luck as we played a really good game. Doku came in. Alvarez came in. Everyone knows these guys.”

After the substitutions, Alvarez’s first touch helped set up a goal. The Argentinian found Foden, who in turn sent through Haaland. He put his first-half misses behind him and finished confidently past Blaswich, becoming the fastest player to score 40 Champions League goals.

Foden’s equaliser came with 20 minutes left in the match. He was fed by Gvardiol, who could boast an assist against his former club. With Mohamed Simakan just losing his footing at the crucial moment, Foden took the ball in his stride and stroked it into the bottom corner. It was his fourth goal in six games, his most productive run of the season.

Fabio Carvalho, on loan from Liverpool, came off the bench and thought he had scored for Leipzig but was pulled back for offside. But the winner came with the two subs involved again. Doku crossed, Foden helped it on, with Alvarez applying the finish.

“If you talk about the qualification, it is a great night. If you talk about the game, we could do better,” added Guardiola. “Sloppy goals. You have to win duels and it was the same in the (4-4) Chelsea game. Maybe for the future it will be good to win but not comfortably.

“The way we played in the first half, I was not sure. We are City and we are European champions but you have to earn it and be better at times.

“Today we were lucky.”


Man City 3 RB Leipzig 2: as it happened


10:27 PM GMT

Guardiola speaks

It’s the Champions League! Leipzig is a team who have qualified for the last five or six Champion Leagues. We concede too much defensively. You have to win actions and win duels and we didn’t do it. After that we were anxious and we conceded two goals but we react really well in the second half and [reached] our target. We are first in the group and very satisfied for the reaction at the end. The team runs and fights and has a spirit. That was good.

We changed a little bit our press because it wasn’t effective. We hadn’t expect them to play like that [with three at the back]. We adjust something and we scored early which helped a lot. We know we can come back.

We won all the games so far. Important we qualify first and now we can concentrate on the Premier League.

When you play [against 5-4-1] space is not easy. Josko made incredible passes inside and helped us find spaces inside. Then you have the quality of Erling and the others and Rico was exceptional and Phil in the final third was decisive.

Jeremy changed our rhythm and Julian is a special player. Julian, Phil and Erling have an incredible sense of goal.


10:15 PM GMT

Phil Foden on the comeback

It was a half of two sides (sic). The first half was the worst I’ve seen us but the courage and the motivation we have, we changed things. We needed that goal to get going and even the fans were louder after that. We’ve got a great record at the Etihad and it only takes a goal to change things. I’ve rushed a few chances sometimes and smashed it but the manager tells you to take your time and be calm.


10:11 PM GMT

Look at Foden's touch


10:02 PM GMT

In the other Group G game

Young Boys 2-0 Red Start

Which leaves the table like this

  1. Man City 15pts

  2. RB Leipzig 9pts

  3. Young Boys 4pts

  4. Red Star 1 pt


09:58 PM GMT

Full time: Man City 3 RB Leipzig 2

After sleepwalking through 45 minutes and the first 10 of the second half, City sprang into life and sealed an extraordinary comeback with slick movement, quick passing and the brightness of vision that has moulded them into Europe’s best side over the past six years.


09:57 PM GMT

90+6 min: Man City 3 RB Leipzig 2

Leipzig corner on the left, scrambled out for a throw on the right and at that moment the ref blows for time’s up.


09:56 PM GMT

90+4 min: Man City 3 RB Leipzig 2

Klostermann thwarts Alvarez from getting on the end of a one-two with Lewis after a dribbling slalom took him into the box on the right.


09:53 PM GMT

90+2 min: Man City 3 RB Leipzig 2

Sergio Gomez ⇢ Gvardiol. City are now 29 matches unbeaten at home in Europe and need one more to tie Liverpool’s 30 and eight more to match Barcelona’s 38. Stat courtesy of Ian Darke.


09:52 PM GMT

90 min: Man City 3 RB Leipzig 2

They took their time to wake up but once City did, by virtue of Guardiola’s changes, they have been wonderful to watch, pinging passes, hogging the ball, whrling the ball between all 10 outfield players to mesmerise and move players out of position, like vampires beguiling a victim until they expose their neck. And then they pounce, canines first.


09:46 PM GMT

GOAL!

Man City 3 RB Leipzig 2 (Alvarez)  Unplayable against a tiring team when they go bang, bang, bang with their passing to send Doku down the left to chase Bernardo’s clever pass. He races on to it and pulls it back to Foden who controls the pass, and whips an angled shot that hits Klostermann’s back and spins perfectly to Alvarez in the middle, seven yards out. He takes a moment, calm in the eye of the storm,  and then drills a shot past Blaswich.

Manchester City's Julian Alvarez scores their third goal
Alvarez completes the comeback - REUTERS/Molly Darlington

09:44 PM GMT

82 min: Man City 2 RB Leipzig 2

City are playing 2-4-2-2 when they’ve got the ball with Lewis alongside Rodri and Bernardo and Alvarez ahead of them sniping in the inside forward channels.


09:41 PM GMT

79 min: Man City 2 RB Leipzig 2

Doku drives at Simakan down the City left but the centre-back sticks to his task and blocks the cross behind for a corner. City take it short and Alvarez then arrows a cross straight down Blaswich’s throat.


09:38 PM GMT

77 min: Man City 2 RB Leipzig 2

Carvalho, on loan from Liverpool, threads a shot in at the right post after a lovely bit of skill where he used the spin of the ball to bump it off his tuchas and then  received the return to fire in ... but he was two inches offside and up goes the flag to chalk it off.


09:35 PM GMT

74 min: Man City 2 RB Leipzig 2

Sesko has a some space and decides to take on the shot but was leaning back and fired high enough for Ortega to tip it over comfortably.

Carvalho ⇢ Haidara

Poulsen ⇢ Xavi (who landed very heavily on his right shoulder and looks in pain).


09:29 PM GMT

GOAL!

Man City 2 RB Leipzig 2 (Foden) The old soft shoe shuffle. Foden kills a lovely curving pass from Gvardiol from the left to the left of the D. He stops it, pokes it with his laces to set up a shot which he sweeps through Klostermann’s legs and into the net. Sumptuous control.

Foden scores with his left foot
Foden levels it - Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

09:28 PM GMT

69 min: Man City 1 RB Leipzig 2

From the free-kick, which Alvarez floats into the box, Ake rises to meet it unmolested but steers it wide of the left post.


09:27 PM GMT

67 min: Man City 1 RB Leipzig 2

Haidara beats Gvardiol in the air about 35 yards from the RB goal and has a chance to spark a 4 vs 2 counter but his pass out to the left to Xavi Simons is far too heavy and they lose the initiative. A minute later Schlager is penalised for a foul on Akanji.


09:25 PM GMT

64 min: Man City 1 RB Leipzig 2

City have been much better since the changes, more like their old selves as they probe away with Leipzig camped in their own half for a spell.


09:22 PM GMT

62 min: Man City 1 RB Leipzig 2

Bernardo tries to knock one over the top to let Haaland beat the back three but the ball skips away off the turf and Blaswich reacts smartly to race out and grab it.


09:20 PM GMT

59 min: Man City 1 RB Leipzig 2

City see off the threat and try to inject some urgency. Double RB change:

Baumgartner ⇢ Forsberg

Sesko ⇢ Openda.

That’s a shame. Openda has been a joy to watch.


09:18 PM GMT

57 min: Man City 1 RB Leipzig 2

Leipzig corner after their best move of the half linked Xavi with Openda again on a raid into the City box that Akanji snuffs out at the price of a corner.


09:14 PM GMT

GOAL!

Man City 1 RB Leipzig 2 (Haaland) Quick passing in the centre-circle from Bernardo to Foden who slips the perfect pass to Haaland right of centre 30 yards out and onside by about six inches. He gallops forward, draws the keeper then sweeps a finish into the bottom left with his left instep as if measured to strike a certain spot inside the side netting.

Haaland scores
Haaland pounces - REUTERS/Carl Recine

09:14 PM GMT

52 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

Luekba tidies up when a ball is pumped down the inside left for Foden to chase.

Doku ⇢ Grealish

Alvarez ⇢ Walker.

Rodri has captaincy thrust upon him by Walker.


09:11 PM GMT

49 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

Ake takes Forsberg’s boot on the brow as the Dutch defender stooped to head on halfway. Free kick. There’s no atmosphere at all. You can hear individual voices in the crowd. Guardiola tells Doku and Alavrez to get stripped.


09:07 PM GMT

47 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

Foden wraps his left foot around the ball and whips in a pass to the D that Bernardo couldn’t quite trap to set up a shooting chance. Leipzig scuttle off on a counter using Simons’ pace but City manage to stifle it.


09:06 PM GMT

46 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

One change for City: Ake ⇢ Ruben Dias.

Ake slots in at left centre-back and Gvardiol stays at left-back.


09:04 PM GMT

Well, Pep, stick or twist?

Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City, reacts during the Uefa Champions League match between Manchester City
Pep Guardiola has decisions to make - Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

08:58 PM GMT

Here's Openda's cute finish for his second

Luis Openda shoots and scores
Openda screws his shot past Ortega - Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

08:52 PM GMT

Half-time: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

Who are these men in blue and what have they done with Manchester City? Leipzig have been brilliantly opportunistic to exploit defensive errors and are well worth their lead but a Pep hairdryer and some personnel changes could still stave off a first home Champions League defeat in 5½ years. Even in their zombie state, City have created a handful of good chances.

RB Leipzig's Lois Openda celebrates scoring their second goal
Luis Openda silences the Etihad with two goals - REUTERS/Carl Recine

08:49 PM GMT

45+4 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

Ruben Dias escapes a second yellow for making a hurdle with his leg that brings down Xavi Simons on halfway. Wasn’t much connection with Simons.


08:48 PM GMT

45+2 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

One corner begets another and then a third ... and then a fourth after solid defensive headers from Ruben Dias, Haaland and Gvardiol.


08:46 PM GMT

45 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

Four minutes of stoppage time are signalled before RB take a corner in this very quiet stadium. The crowd is as stunned as the players.


08:45 PM GMT

43 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

Akanji’s catches Raum late after a heavy first touch and kicks him on the ankle. No yellow card, oddly.


08:42 PM GMT

41 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

Guardiola has sent his subs out to warm up. Rodri is caught on his toe when blindsided by Raum and has tweaked his knee.


08:39 PM GMT

39 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

As if to exemplify how bad City have been, Rodri sprays a pass straight into touch.


08:38 PM GMT

36 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2

Grealish tees up Foden to the left of the penalty spot after shaping to shoot but he can’t find any space and the ball bobbles back to Haaland who strides on to it like the Grim Reaper but flashes a left-foot rocket into orbit.


08:33 PM GMT

GOAL!

Man City 0 RB Leipzig 2 (Openda)  Another defensive mistake. This time Ruben Dias goes too tight on halfway and Openda rolls him and bombs away on to Haidara’s pass. Openda makes 30 yards cuts inside and beats Gvardiol’s covering run because the defender couldn’t stop in time to react when he darted to his right. Out comes Ortega and Openda closes his ankle to shoot in at the near post.

Openda celebrates scoring his second
Openda is having the time of his life at the Etihad - Richard Sellers/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images)

08:32 PM GMT

32min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 1

From the restart Blaswich almost did the same as Ramsdale against Brentford on Saturday but his defenders bailed him out after his misplaced short pass invited the squeeze.


08:31 PM GMT

30 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 1

Grealish fizzes a pass to Lewis on the left of the D. The ball scoots under his feet but he brushes it with his studs to take the pace off. Opening his body he taps it to the right of Klostermann who thought he would go the other way, and set up a clear shooting chance from 15 yards but blazed it over.

Here’s the goal:


08:29 PM GMT

27 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 1

Grealish’s blow to the head has not concussed him and he is free to carry on. Guardiola uses the break in play to read his players the riot act.


08:28 PM GMT

24 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 1

The ref stops the game when Grealish is tackled by Simons and then caught by Seiwald’s knee as he fell to the turf.


08:22 PM GMT

22 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 1

Ruben Dias is booked for a high boot that catches Haidara. Rash. They are not themselves by any stretch.


08:21 PM GMT

20 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 1

Haaland, lurking on Lukeba’s shoulder gets in behind the defensive line to chase a threaded pass but Leipzig get numbers back to crowd him out.


08:18 PM GMT

17 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 1

Cute pass from Lewis puts Haaland in down the inside left but his first touch of the match is a heavy one and the ball gets away from him before Klostermann turns it behind.


08:17 PM GMT

15 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 1

Big chance for City to equalise immediately when Bernardo swings in a corner from the left and Ruben Dias steals in unmarked to blast a header over. Oddly off-kilter tonight, City. You’d put your house on him to bury that normally.


08:13 PM GMT

GOAL!

Man City 0 RB Leipzig 1 (Openda)  Route one from Blaswich up the field and assisted by Akanji’s dozy defending. Openda was on his shoulder in the centre-circle and pounced when Akanji let it bounce. He motored off ahead of his pursuers, took it into the box then calmly finished into the bottom right corner with a sweet, left-foot shot.

RB Leipzig's Lois Openda scores their first goal
Openda scores for RB Leipzig - REUTERS/Carl Recine

08:11 PM GMT

10 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 0

Leipzig try to fizz short passes across the back four and do it well but when they try to free Openda they misplace the loner pass and RB alumnus Gvardiol picks it off.


08:09 PM GMT

8 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 0

Raum links up with Simons down the left and plays the winger down the line. He gives Walker the slip with a shimmy and a trick but the cross isn’t good enough.


08:08 PM GMT

6 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 0

Chance for RB Leipzig at the edge of the box but Simons fizzes it wide.


08:05 PM GMT

4 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 0

Grealish stands up a cross to the right of the D after good work from Foden. Bernardo spins on to the volley but crashes it into the turf. RB scramble it away to Akanki who tries a volley from an awkward height and shins it wide.

Not Ederson, of course, Ortega. Apologies. Will change.


08:03 PM GMT

2 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 0

Rodri, down by his own left corner flag, bypasses Ederson Ortega who has come towards him for the pass and chips it across an unguarded net to Ruben Dias who thumps it upfield.


08:01 PM GMT

1 min: Man City 0 RB Leipzig 0

City kick off and move the ball back to Ederson Ortega who pings a pass that almost sets Bernardo free down the right. Blaswich comes out to gather.


07:59 PM GMT

Free the Farnley One

Poor old Kalvin Phillips still can’t get a game and Rico Lewis is picked ahead of him in central midfield.


07:58 PM GMT

Good evening

Bagchi here after finishing the Celtic blog. City come out to the anthems wearing replicas of the 1968 title-winning strip to pay tribute to Lee, Bell and Summerbee, City’s Holy Trinity, to whom a statue was dedicated at the Etihad today.


07:53 PM GMT

The warm-ups are in full flow...

How many goals will this man score tonight? He only has 18 so far this season.

Erling Haaland of Manchester City during the warm up for the UEFA Champions League group G match between Manchester City
Erling Haaland of Manchester City during the warm up for the UEFA Champions League group G match between Manchester City

07:51 PM GMT

Jeremy Doku’s performance against Liverpool showcases Manchester City’s attacking evolution

A bit of a tactical piece from James Ducker, which you can read here. 


07:47 PM GMT

Meanwhile, in Rome...

Celtic succumbed to a late defeat by Lazio.


07:41 PM GMT

City manager Pep Guardiola spoke yesterday about Terry Venables


07:29 PM GMT

A reminder of how the group stands after four games apiece

There is not a great deal up for grabs here other than deciding which of City and Leipzig win the group and which of Red Star and Young Boys transfer to the Europa League.

1. Manchester City - 12pts (+9 GD)
2. RB Leipzig - 9pts (+3 GD)
3. Red Star Belgrade - 1pt (-5 GD)
4. Young Boys - 1pt (-7 GD)


07:23 PM GMT

And RB Leipzig's team...

Starting XI: Blaswich, Simakan, Haidara, Forsberg, Seiwald, Klostermann, Openda, Xavi, Raum, Castello Jr, Schlager
Substitutes: Gulacsi, Lenz, Poulsen, Baumgartner, Carvalho, Sesko, Henrichs, Kampl


07:20 PM GMT

Manchester City's team for tonight

Starting XI: Ortega Moreno, Walker, Akanji, Dias, Gvardiol, Rodrigo, Lewis, Bernardo, Foden, Grealish, Haaland
Substitutes: Ederson, Carson, Phillips, Stones, Ake, Doku, Alvarez, Gomez, Bobb


04:50 PM GMT

Preview: Not long now for KDB

By Ian Whittell

Pep Guardiola has confirmed the news Manchester City’s title rivals were dreading to hear with Kevin De Bruyne now possibly within six weeks of a return to action.

The Belgian playmaker has been absent since the opening minutes of the Premier League season, when he suffered a hamstring injury at Burnley that required surgery.

The City manager will again be without, arguably, his most creative player in tonight’s Champions League meeting with RB Leipzig at the Etihad.

But Guardiola has confirmed De Bruyne’s own prediction of a January return and a happy new year for City, if not their rivals, at home and in Europe.

“If he said January, it will be January,” said Guardiola. “I would have loved to have him all season but now he has had a tough injury and surgery and he said the end of December or New Year, so it will be a Happy New Year for everyone.”

Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin de Bruyne will be back in the new year - GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

Guardiola also deflected the suggestion that the break may actually benefit the 32-year-old veteran and acknowledged his senior status will mean monitoring his comeback is important.

“I think he would have preferred to be with us but, in football (terms), he is a lot of years already. He is not 21 any more,” said Guardiola.

“Time runs and he unfortunately he had this injury. He has to recover and make a step back again; recover well, prepare well and we’re not expecting after one week to be perfect.

“Step by step, to have him from the beginning, or off the bench, he is always a good weapon. I don’t need to discover the quality of Kevin.”

With City already guaranteed a place in the Champions League knock-out stages, a draw against Leipzig will all but guarantee the defending champions top place.

During City’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Saturday, the City manager gestured to his supporters to give his side more vocal backing - a message he repeated despite the relatively low-key nature of the Leipzig clash.

“The stadium is always full, we have to play as best as possible, create as much to energise the people,” he said.

“I had the feeling the team is playing really good, a few moments against Liverpool to take some tips for tomorrow. Many things we’ve done well. These players have done for many years, we love to do it together.

“The games last season, important games, against Arsenal for the Premier League, they were there. We need that, my humble opinion - to be successful, we need our fans.

“Thank you so much, without them it would not be possible to be here. Together we are stronger, for them to be part of our game is much better and we feel they are there. We play better.

“We have to do the first steps all the time. Tomorrow hopefully they can come and enjoy the game.”

Those fans would certainly settle for a repeat of last season’s meeting between the teams in the Champions League at the Etihad, when City won their last 16 tie against the Germans 7-0.

Erling Haaland scored five times against a Leipzig line-up that featured City defender Josko Gvardiol, who moved to the Etihad last summer.

“I would like to forget about it!” said Gvardiol.  “I remember I woke up and it was sunshine and after 30 minutes was raining. It was a mess.

“During the game, we conceded seven goals and after the game nobody talked with anyone. It’s football, we lost against the winners.

“I didn’t know about City at that time, I was focusing on myself. It was a big opportunity to go through but it’s the Champions League, if you want to be the champions you have to face the best clubs.”

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