EPL:Man City spoil Allardyce’s return to edge closer to Premier League title


By Sedara Philip

Manchester City closed in on retaining the Premier League title as a 2-1 win over struggling Leeds on Saturday opened up a four-point lead at the top of the table.

Ilkay Gundogan struck twice before half-time and missed a penalty as City made it 14 consecutive wins at the Etihad in 2023.

But the home side were made to suffer a far more nervy finale than necessary after Rodrigo pulled a goal back five minutes from time.

Pep Guardiola was far from happy after Erling Haaland gave Gundogan the chance to seal his hat-trick from the spot rather than taking responsibility six minutes from time.

That rounded off a rare poor day for Haaland, who missed a number of chances to add to his 51 goals in all competitions this season.

Sam Allardyce’s return to the dugout had no immediate impact in reviving Leeds’ fortunes as they remain outside the relegation zone only on goal difference.

Allardyce made the remarkable claim in midweek that he was “as good” as Guardiola after being appointed for the final four games of the season.

But the former England boss was quickly teased with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as the visitors failed to offer any resistance to wave upon wave of City attack early on.

After the English national anthem was played just prior to kick-off to mark the coronation of King Charles III, the game quickly turned into a procession.

Guardiola could even afford the luxury of making seven changes with one eye on Tuesday’s trip to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals.

Gundogan was one of those brought back into the side as John Stones, Ruben Dias, Rodri, Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva were among those handed a rest.

Leeds were lucky to last until 19 minutes without conceding as Haaland fired his first big chance into the chest of goalkeeper Joel Robles, who was brought in by Allardyce to replace Illan Meslier.

Gundogan showed the star striker how it is done as twice the German midfielder received passes from Riyad Mahrez and picked out the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Kevin De Bruyne’s return from injury was another timely boost for City’s quest for a treble of trophies and the Belgian’s brilliant lay-off should have been buried by Haaland, who fired wide.

Haaland set a new Premier League record of 35 goals in a single season against West Ham on Wednesday.

And the 22-year-old will think he should have had a seventh hat-trick of his first season in English football let alone walk away empty-handed.

Haaland powered a header too close to Robles and then fired against the post with just the goalkeeper to beat.

City were able to take their foot off the gas in the second half in seemingly perfect preparation for their revenge mission in Madrid.

But the mood changed drastically in 60 seconds as Gundogan’s penalty hit the post after Phil Foden was upended.

Guardiola was seen bellowing at Haaland “you have to take it” even before Rodrigo then pounced on an error by Manuel Akanji.

Gundogan was given a frosty reception by his manager when he was replaced in stoppage time, but City comfortably saw the game out to extend their lead at the top of the table.

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