THE NOTEBOOK: Leipzig say thanks to Man United flop Rangnick and Gvardiol’s leap was extraordinary
THE NOTEBOOK: RB Leipzig say thanks to Man United flop Ralf Rangnick and Josko Gvardiol’s leap for the equaliser was extraordinary… but Erling Haaland was surplus to requirements in dominant first-half for Man City
RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol headed in a 70th-minute goal to earn a 1-1 draw against Manchester City in their Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday night.
The 21-year-old defender bagged the deserved equaliser with a towering header after City’s Riyad Mahrez had slotted in following a Leipzig mistake in the 27th minute.
Leipzig were toothless in the first half but were much improved after the break and outplayed their opponents, who are aiming to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for a sixth straight season.
City have now drawn their last two games after being held 1-1 by Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Saturday while Leipzig’s four-game winning run in the competition came to an end.
Sportsmail’s ROB DRAPER takes a look at some of the things you may have missed at the Red Bull Arena.
Former sporting director Ralf Rangnick returned to Leipzig on Wednesday night
Leipzig salute United flop Rangnick
It was Ralf Rangnick appreciation night, a reminder that there is more to his reputation than the calamitous time at Manchester United.
The former sporting director and sometime coach of RB Leipzig — he basically built the club from the regional north east league to the Champions League club they are today — was back in the stadium for a presentation.
‘Thank you for all you’ve done — we wouldn’t be here today without you,’ said the presenter as Ralf was gifted a framed photo, before addressing supporters to a rapturous reception.
The Manchester City fans observed it all politely and resisted the temptation to breaking into ironic applause.
After all, Rangnick also gave them some of their most enjoyable moments of last season too.
Pep’s tinkering worked in the first-half
Not quite the usual Pep Guardiola tactical meltdown on Wednesday night — he usually reserves that for the Champions League semi or final.
Just the usual radical reinterpretation of the right back role from Kyle Walker so that he was a wide midfielder, leaving three at the back most of the time, which allowed Riyad Mahrez the freedom to drift inside.
It also allowed City to dominate possession even more than usual in the first half (see heat maps, below).
Josko Gvardiol rose above Ruben Dias to head home the equaliser in the second-half
It’s a giant leap for Gvardiol
When RB Leipzig’s equaliser came it was that simplest of goals, the set-piece cross and header.
But the sheer height that Josko Gvardiol rose above Ruben Dias following a short corner was extraordinary.
The Croatia defender looked a full three foot higher than Portuguese Diaz, who remained firmly rooted to the floor.
Being a target from set pieces will only add to the clamour of Premier League clubs chasing to sign the 21-year-old Gvardiol.
Erling Haaland barely had a touch in the first-half despite City dominating possession
Haaland surplus to requirements
It would be foolish to say that a player who has scored 26 Premier League goals and five Champions League goals is peripheral to City.
And yet in that first half of utter domination it did feel as though Erling Haaland was somewhat surplus to requirements.
He barely had a touch and the best that could be said was he kept Josko Gvardiol occupied.
At times it does feel like City play their stuff regardless of him as he watches on longingly, waiting for the one moment when they play a long ball in behind the back four.
Source of data and images: dailymail