Dhe importance of the game gave reason to be nostalgic. So it was good that Ralf Rangnick stopped by RB Leipzig again. Not entirely coincidental, the former coach and sporting director was given an official farewell ahead of the Manchester City clash and took the opportunity to revisit the beginnings in his acceptance speech.
Back then in the fourth division, just a little over a decade ago. Rangnick, meanwhile Austria’s national coach, is considered the architect of Leipzig’s rise to the spheres of top European football. “He played a key role in what was created here. What we can experience here is very, very much Ralf Rangnick,” said the current coach Marco Rose.
Rose is one of the prominent group of Rangnick’s students, but what the master then saw in the first 45 minutes had little to do with his teaching. There was nothing to be seen of Leipzig’s power football, the quick transition game or the determined path towards the opposing goal. Due to the enormous increase in performance in the second half, Leipzig still got a deserved 1:1 and still has every chance of reaching the quarter-finals.
Bad bad pass from Schlager
The days when RB Leipzig was so overplayed in the club’s young history as in this first half against Manchester City can certainly be counted on one hand, but it was a certain tragedy that it happened right in front of Rangnick’s eyes. In addition to the result at the break, he should not have liked the fact that his sporting life’s work was behind the football approach that he preferred the least.
Since arriving in Manchester in 2016, Pep Guardiola has been trying for nothing less than perfect positional play. His ball possession style provides the greatest possible contrast to Rangnick’s approach to switching.
At this fair of football, the English first showed what they have in their repertoire. They skilfully let the ball run through their own ranks, from foot to foot, from neighbor to neighbor. The Leipzig ran behind without any chance of success. You have to do a lot right against an opponent of this quality and you can’t afford to make any mistakes, RB goalkeeper Janis Blaswich said before the match.
Xaver Schlager destroyed the vision of a flawless game early on with a bad pass. Twenty meters from his own goal, he missed Konrad Laimer by a good meter, then everything happened very quickly. Jack Grealish snatched the ball and played it straight into the box to Ilkay Gundogan, but the Germany international quick-wittedly let it through to the onrushing Riyad Mahrez. The accomplished thinks with his strong left foot (27th). At that point, City had 82 percent possession.
Leipzig had to put up with the question of why they were so hesitant and despondent. It can hardly be the size of the opponent, RB is a regular guest in the knockout rounds of the Champions League even after Rangnick’s farewell. It was only in autumn that defending champions Real Madrid were defeated 3-2 in the same place. It didn’t look like a repeat against City until half-time. RB only made a harmless shot attempt by Timo Werner. Manchester, on the other hand, failed to increase the lead to a comfortable level early on. Grealish narrowly failed with a shot worth seeing (36th).
It was all the more astonishing how much things changed after the break. Leipzig coach Rose replaced Lukas Klostermann and brought in Benjamin Henrichs. He could have equalized immediately after coming on, but his low shot flew just wide of the goal (55th).
André Silva appeared in the six-yard box in front of goalkeeper Ederson, but failed at the Brazilian (63rd). Manchester should have been warned by then at the latest, but nothing changed in their renewed passivity. The acknowledgment followed a corner kick. After a cross from Marcel Halstenberg, the strong central defender headed in for the deserved 1-1 equalization (70′). Manchester only took part in the game sporadically. That was especially true for striker Erling Haaland. The Norwegian force of nature didn’t catch up with their colleagues, only once, shortly before equalizing, did he show what he’s capable of. No one from Leipzig could follow his pace, but the finish was too imprecise.
Even if things got a little trickier in the closing stages, neither team wanted to risk too much. The decision on entering the quarterfinals will be made in three weeks. Then in Manchester and presumably in the absence of Ralf Rangnick. “If we act like we did in the second half, then you can also get something against Manchester City,” said substitute Benjamin Henrichs on DAZN: “If you see the second half with the many chances, then there was more in it.” Xaver Schlager stressed, however: “We must be annoyed about the first half.”