TDuring the night, Pep Guardiola gave the English journalists an intercultural digression on football. “I was here for three years, the teams in Germany never give up. Never! They keep running,” said the Manchester City coach, looking as urbane as he might have intended. Shouldn’t anyone be surprised about this 1-1 draw at RB Leipzig, Guardiola wanted to say, who had already made representations in Leipzig as Bayern Munich coach between 2013 and 2016.
To support his thesis, he presented an analysis that was not necessarily empirically tenable, but was based on his own experiences. “It used to be easy to win games in the Champions League. Not today. Today everyone is well prepared and has really good coaches,” said Guardiola.
In his own way, he defended himself against the unspoken assumption, which shimmered through the night, that his high-quality heavyweight footballers weren’t really looking for an early knockout against the middleweights of RB Leipzig. They really deserved the draw with a huge improvement in performance in the second half. “It’s a good result for us because it means that theoretically one goal is enough for us in Manchester,” said Xaver Schlager.
Worst half under Marco Rose
That may be true, but it would require Leipzig to keep a clean sheet in three weeks. Nobody can afford to make mistakes like the Austrian before Riyad Mahrez made it 1-0. Schlager had played a hair-raising bad pass in front of his own penalty area. He followed up with a suitable explanation for his dropout. “They sent us running all the time. You have a constant pulse of 180, mistakes in possession are quite normal,” he said.
The first half was among the worst RB have played since Marco Rose arrived as coach in the autumn. As weak as the performance against the ball-safe Englishman was, with a view to the second leg, it could at least serve as a bad example. It became clear “how not to do it,” said Rose. The second 45 minutes give hope, in which Leipzig played a lot more courageously and earned the equalizer from Josko Gvardiol, who headed in after a corner kick. “We did a lot right there,” said Rose.
Sleepless nights for Henrichs
If the chances had been better exploited, a win would have been possible, but Benjamin Henrichs missed the greatest opportunity. He struggled with his missed shot for a long time. “These are situations that you take home with you. That gives sleepless nights. If I don’t put the ball in, I have to at least get it on goal so that the rebound lands on at least one of our players,” said Henrichs.
He shouldn’t go into the coming days without enough sleep, the important Bundesliga game against Eintracht Frankfurt is on Saturday (3.30 p.m./in the FAZ live ticker for the Bundesliga and on Sky). Eintracht lost their round of 16 in the Champions League against Naples on Tuesday (0-2). According to Henrichs, this is irrelevant for the duel at the weekend. “The Champions League is a competition all of its own,” he said. That unintentionally sounded a bit like Pep Guardiola. And after a football cultural excursion.