Manchester City 2 Leeds United 1: Whites cause a panic to City's passing procession

On a day of gilded processions by Britain's super-rich elites, Manchester City's 2-1 win over Leeds United followed the same script, even if the final scoreline hid it quite well.

Pep Guardiola had no need to roll out all his golden carriages, keeping some of his crown jewels on the bench. Even some of his fringe players like No 82 Rico Lewis are truly aristocratic footballers.

When Erling Haaland and Ilker Gundogan – the holding midfielder donated a penalty when he was on a hat-trick to the fury of his manager Pep Guardiola – both hit the woodwork, Leeds substitute Rodrigo was able to steer only his fourth shot of a game where City had 24 into the net after 85 minutes and spread a few jitters at Eastlands, but it would be his team's last of the game.

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City caused their own problems by trying too hard to preserve energy with an FA Cup final and a European semi-final to come and nearly paid for it. Nearly, but not quite.

Guardiola's is just a very good football team, hitting their stride as they close in on a treble only done once before, on the other side of their city. That has to be the context when viewing the afternoon from a Leeds perspective.

With over 1,000 touches of the ball, their passing was so good, first Crysencio Summerville, then Brenden Aaronson and Pascal Struijk were made to wait an age before they could come on as Leeds substitutes because the ball just would not go out to play.

Fifty-one years to the day after their only FA Cup win, Leeds no longer mix in these circles, reduced to the role of paupers and they doffed their cap too often, reluctant to really get in the faces of the glitterati in front of them, seemingly intimidated into handing back possession whenever they got it as if they knew it did not really belong to them.

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The real test of this team will come probably not even next week, when another of the nouveau riche – the Saudi royal family's sportswashing plaything Newcastle United – are at Elland Road, but the week after. The question is, how big a salvage job will "Fireman" Sam Allardyce have to do by then.

PENALTY: Pascal Struijk clips Phil FodenPENALTY: Pascal Struijk clips Phil Foden
PENALTY: Pascal Struijk clips Phil Foden

Guardiola might have been very respectful in his pre-match comments but not his team selection – no Kalvin Phillips, even with Rodri rested, along with John Stones and Jack Grealish.

The first half was a procession of passing from City, with the game being played almost exclusively in Leeds's half – and by the hosts.

It took 17 minutes for Joel Robles, on his first Premier League appearance for six years, to make a save, by which time Patrick Bamford had already put a header from a Weston McKennie cross wide and the goalkeeper had already been berated by the home fans for time-wasting, but it was simply a matter of time.

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Robles rushed off his line to save with his right boot as Haaland was played through.

CELEBRATIONS: Ilkay Gundogan enjoys his and Manchester City's second goalCELEBRATIONS: Ilkay Gundogan enjoys his and Manchester City's second goal
CELEBRATIONS: Ilkay Gundogan enjoys his and Manchester City's second goal

Left-back Junior Firpo was narrow in a Leeds back four which had Rasmus Kristensen preferred to Robin Koch at right-sided centre-back, so Riyad Mahrez made sure he was not, and got plenty of the ball as a result.

It was his 18th-minute cross Haaland was not quite able to throw his head to, and a minute later his pull-back picked out Gundogan for a precise finish.

The second goal came from roughly the same route, De Bruyne threading in Haaland to pull the ball back. Just like Jefferson Lerma six days earlier, an opposition player was on a first-half hat-trick against Leeds having been granted two free shots under no pressure.

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During an effective time-out when McKennie was down injured Michael Skubala called the visiting players over and made a hand gesture suggesting he wanted them to get tighter to their men on the ball.

Adam Forshaw tried his best to be tigerish on his first start of 2023 but was as guilty as everyone else in black and organge of turning the ball over when they got it. Nothing stuck with Bamford, which was eseential as he was usually in a different postcode to the banks of four and five behind him.

You could hardly blame the formation. There are rules against playing 8-8-1.

Allardyce's main discovery seemed to be that McKennie takes a good long throw-in.

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In between the goals Mahrez should have had one of his own, Phil Foden's ball clearing everyone but him, only to put it onto the roof of the net. Haaland shot a De Bruyne touch wide with the crowd expectant.

McKennie forced a save from Marc Roca's corner shortly after the second but it ewas a rare example of anyone having to look to that end of the field.

Robles soon had to make one of his own after spilling the ball to Julian Alvarez.

If De Bruyne's latest through ball to Haaland was just the norm, the son of Alf Inge miskicking the ball off his standing foot was anything but. "You're Leeds and you know you are" sang the home fans.

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He would hit the crossbar in the second half, but from an offside position, then the post from a legitimate chance.

Leeds saw more of the ball in the second half simply because City were content to let them eat cake crumbs whilst they took it easy.

Struijk was thrown on as a third centre-back with 10 minutes to go but did not get over quickly enough and caught Foden in the penalty area for an 84th minute.

Even though it did not look like Haaland's day - especially in the 61st minute when, after being played through by Lewis, he hit a post – Guardiola was furious when Gundogan, not his goal machine, took the spot kick. He put it against the same upright.

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A minute later City were made to rue it, Manuel Akanji failing to deal with a long ball and Rodrigo steering in.

It was something to work with for Allardyce and something to learn from but the real work has not started yet.

Manchester City: Ederson; Akanji, Ake (Walker 54), Laporte; Lewis, Gundogan (Rodri 90); Mahrez, Alvarez (Silva 87), De Bruyne, Foden, Haaland.

Unused substitutes: Dias, Phillips, Stones, Grealish, Ortega, Gomez.

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Leeds United: Robles; Ayling, Kristensen, Wober, Firpo; Gnonto (Rodrigo 58), McKennie, Forshaw (Struijk 80), Roca (Greenwood 58), Harrison (Summerville 65); Bamford (Aaronson 80).

Unused substitutes: Meslier, Koch, Rutter, Gray.

Referee: A Madley (Huddersfield).