Marcelo Bielsa hailed Leeds for pushing their limits to hold Manchester City to a pulsating 1-1 draw and deal another early blow to the visitors’ Premier League title chances.
City were soundly beaten 5-2 at home by Leicester last weekend and seemed keen to make amends with a dominant start, during which Raheem Sterling opened the scoring.
However, despite handing a debut to £62 million ($80 million) centre-back Ruben Dias, Pep Guardiola’s men remained unsure in defence and Bielsa’s men levelled when Rodrigo pounced on an error from goalkeeper Ederson just before the hour mark.
A first meeting between Pep Guardiola and Bielsa in English football was highly-anticipated and did not disappoint in a thrilling game that somehow ended with only two goals despite a combined 35 efforts on goal.
“For them to be superior to us is pretty easy for them, it doesn’t require much effort, whereas for us it requires us to go to the limit to be on their level,” said Bielsa.
City could now find themselves eight points behind Liverpool by the end of the weekend should Jurgen Klopp’s men maintain their perfect start at Aston Villa on Sunday.
“It was good,” said Guardiola. “[It shows] when both teams want to attack.”
City’s start to the season has been disrupted by injuries to strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, plus a number of positive coronavirus cases. But Guardiola said that should not be used as an excuse for dropping five points in two games.
“The team with the situation we have with our pre-season, with a lot of players out, they show an incredible behaviour. Unfortunately we could not win but we move on from here.”
Guardiola’s men started with intent to quiet their critics as they pounced on Bielsa’s determination for his side to play out from the back by forcing the hosts into mistakes with an intense press.
Kevin De Bruyne smashed an early free-kick off the post before Ferran Torres had a shot blocked on the line.
City’s pressure was finally rewarded in the opener as Sterling cut inside before burying a low shot into the far corner at 17 minutes.
However, Leeds composed themselves as the first-half wore on and City’s energy levels dipped.
“We make an incredible 30 minutes and when we could not score the goals, we know this is a team that is there until the final whistle,” added Guardiola.
Luke Ayling should have equalised before half-time when he pounced on Benjamin Mendy’s poor clearance, but failed to beat Ederson one-on-one.
Leeds started the second-half as they ended the first, by posing the bigger threat, especially once Bielsa introduced Rodrigo 10 minutes after the break.
The Spanish international gave City a warning shot when his deflected effort came back off the crossbar.
But from the resulting corner, Leeds’ record signing levelled when Ederson dropped the ball invitingly at his feet.
A wild game then raged from one end to the other with neither side settling for a point.
Ederson made amends for his error at the equaliser by turning Rodrigo’s header onto the bar.
Moments later, Sterling was racing clear in behind the Leeds defence but ran the ball too close to Meslier, who smothered at the England international’s feet before City saw two late penalty appeals waived away.
But Bielsa’s men held on to take their tally to seven points from their opening four games, including clashes with last season’s top two, on their return to the top-flight after a 16-year absence.
“Leeds have been waiting a long time to be in this league and I think we showed we are prepared for this,” said Rodrigo.