Sam Allardyce 'not upbeat' but Leeds United give him second-half reasons for encouragement at Manchester City

Sam Allardyce took comfort from Leeds United's second-half improvement as they made Manchester City sweat on a victory in his first game as caretaker manager.

City totally dominated the first 45 minutes at Eastlands, taking a 2-0 lead with goals from Ilkay Gundogan, who found far too much space for both.

They controlled the next 40 minutes too but with a hectic fixture list to come as they chase three trophies, they were less forceful and with Erling Haaland hitting the woodwork, they were unable to add to their lead.

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So when Gundogan saved a penalty his manager Pep Guardiola had wanted Haaland to take, Leeds made things interesting by going down the other end and scoring through substitute Rodrigo.

Leeds were unable to have another shot, never mind find an equaliser, but it made the finale far more nervous than it ought to have been for the Premier League title favourites as they recorded a 2-1 win.

Taking anything more than pride from the game was always going to be a tall order but Allardyce could at least be pleased his side did.

"You would probably all think, and rightly so, at half-time how many is it going to be?" he commented.

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"In the first half we defended with spirit but nowhere near playing in possession anything like we need to to get in the opposition's half, relieve a bit of pressure on the constant defending we had to do.

STARTING POINT: Sam Allardyce speaks to his Leeds United players on the pitch after their 2-1 defeat to Manchester CitySTARTING POINT: Sam Allardyce speaks to his Leeds United players on the pitch after their 2-1 defeat to Manchester City
STARTING POINT: Sam Allardyce speaks to his Leeds United players on the pitch after their 2-1 defeat to Manchester City

"And of course it was two wonderful goals from Manchester City as always.

"So we changed at half-time, not so much the system, just about pushing up the pitch a little bit farther, not sitting as deep as we were and making sure our possession became much, much better than it was. We kept giving the ball back to City.

"When we stopped doing that we found a few spaces and grew in confidence a little bit, then we gave a stupid penalty away which would have spoilt the whole second-half performance apart from Joel (Robles) making what was a wonderful save.

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"Then we go down the other end and score and the game's on, isn't it?

"Manchester CIty may if we'd have played a few balls better from there may have given us another opportunity because they were actually showing a bit of nerves.

"When you get Manchester City playing at the corner flag in the last five or 10 minutes, you know that you must still be in with a chance."

Robles, who was making his Premier League debut for Leeds after Allardyce decided to drop Illan Meslier, did not save Gundogan's spot kick but ensured the rebound did not go into his net.

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Leeds were the first of the relegation-threatened teams to play at the weekend, and the defeat keeps them outside of the bottom three on goal difference with, in their case, three games to play – at home to Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur with a trip to West Ham United in the middle.

Asked if the mood in the dressing room was upbeat, Allardyce replied: "A little bit," before adding: "I'm not upbeat because I've got no points but I am pleased with what they've done in the seocond half, they've not embarrassed themselves and shown some fighting spirit.

"We can build the confidence next week again on the second-half performance.

"We can play a lot better for 90 minutes next week."

Guardiola was angry when 51-goal Haaland passed up the chance to take a penalty against his dad Alf Inge's own team to give Gundogan the chance for a hat-trick. By the time he spoke to the media his atittude had not changed, but his mood had softened.

"For 85 minutes it was really good," he said.

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"(Marc) Roca and (Weston) McKennie followed the pockets with Julian (Alvarez) and Kevin (De Bruyne) so the spaces were for Gundogan and Rico (Lewis).

"It was really good, we conceded one shot on target. And they are good at set pieces, Sam Allardyce is a master.

"In general the team was really good. Maybe the second half was not as intense or as in control but we cannot forget three games in six days after a demanding game against Arsenal – they are human beings. That's why I had to rotate seven players.

"After West Ham I had a feeling they were tired so we had to change it.

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"But at 2-0 you have to close it. if you can control it, you have to control it."

Guardiola said "You have to take it" to Haaland after the penalty and explained why at full-time.

"Who knows if Erling would have taken the penalty and missed it? Riyad could have taken it and missed it," he said. "Ilkay Gundogan could have taken it and scored.

"The question is it's 2-0, who is the taker? It's Erling or Riyad, they have to take it.

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"The second thing is how Erling is as a person. He wants to score goals but his mates are just as important to him. He had chances to score a goal he didn't convert but he played an outstanding game.

"At 2-0, especially in England, it's never over. (So) I want us to have a specialist who is in the routine taking it."