Sam Allardyce was able to halt Erling Haaland on Saturday, but he was unable to stop Manchester City’s unrelenting ascent to the English Premier League championship.
The reigning champions defeated Leeds 2-1 at Etihad Stadium to increase their lead at the top of the standings to four points thanks to two goals from Ilkay Gundogan in the first half.
But in the relegation-threatened visitors’ first game under new manager Allardyce, Rodrigo, a substitute, scored just after Gundogan missed from the penalty spot to give the game a late fright.
In the end, City stretched its unbeaten streak to 20 games in all competitions and brought Pep Guardiola closer to winning the league for the third time in a row.
By the end of the weekend, City’s lead might appear even more dominating because second-place Arsenal has a challenging journey to Newcastle on Sunday.
Leeds has gone six games without a victory, and the battle for survival is getting more and more urgent.
City was on track to win thanks to Gundogan’s two goals in the span of eight first-half minutes.
As Haaland wasted numerous opportunities to add to his season-high 51 goals, the home team was so dominant that it could even afford for its top scorer to have an uncharacteristically bad day.
The Norwegian player occasionally chuckled at himself when another chance to score was lost.
It was obvious it wasn’t going to be his day by the time he fired past Leeds goalkeeper Joel Robles in the second half and struck the post.
Later, to give the City captain a chance to complete his hat trick, Guardiola even gave Gundogan the penalty duties, but Gundogan hit the post.
When Rodrigo scored almost soon after, setting up an unanticipatedly tense conclusion, Guardiola appeared unhappy at that choice, which looked even more costly.
Gundogan still ended up winning the game despite missing his penalty. He scored off passes from Riyad Mahrez in the 19th and 27th minutes.
Rodrigo scored for Leeds a minute after Gundogan’s botched penalty attempt in the 84th minute.
With the first leg of the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid coming up on Tuesday and a spot in the FA Cup final against Manchester United already locked up, City is on its way to a triple of trophies.
For Leeds, it’s the complete reverse, as the Yorkshire club is fighting tooth and nail to stay in the league.
Allardyce was appointed to give the boost that frequently results from a change in management. However, even the most upbeat supporters would have anticipated the worst before traveling to City, a difficult task for any coach, much less a new one.
Before the game had even been played for 30 minutes, it became clear that there was no chance of a surprise victory.
Allardyce’s strategies were obvious. Deepen your seat and try to irritate City. Leeds blocked City’s ability to move the ball around in the final third by placing 10 players in the box to defend it.
It worked for approximately ten minutes.
Following Mahrez’s identification of him on the outskirts of the area, Gundogan broke Leeds’ defense with a pinpoint strike into the bottom right corner.
Again, a pass from Mahrez led to Gundogan’s second goal.
Haaland miskicked again when through on goal, but due to City’s superiority, he was able to chuckle at himself for missing yet another opportunity.
Leeds performed well to keep the score low, despite the fact that Haaland’s errant finishing contributed to that.
In the second half, Robles denied him with a header, and he later had a spinning effort strike the post. When Pascal Struijk fouled Phil Foden in the box, it appeared as though he would finally have his chance to put an end to his troubles.
Gundogan was given the opportunity to take the penalty shot by Haaland, but his attempt hit the post.
When Rodrigo slid a shot past Ederson, Guardiola had even more cause for rage.