New Telegraph

UEFA League: Gvardiol header earns Leipzig draw against Man City

 

…as Lukaku strikes late to snatch win for Inter over Porto

 

 

RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol powered home a towering header in 70th-minute to earn them a 1-1 draw against visitors Manchester City in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old defender bagged the deserved equaliser after City’s Riyad Mahrez had slotted in following a Leipzig mistake in the 27th minute.

There was some controversy at the end with City wanting a penalty with the last kick of the game after the ball appeared to bounce off Benjamin Henrichs’s hands in the box.

“In general I am really pleased,” said coach Pep Guardiola. “I had a feeling the game would be decided in the second leg. I have a lot of respect for Leipzig.”

“Hopefully in three weeks we arrive in a good condition. We can do better. We have to adjust some things and to find a way to go through.”

Asked about a post-match huddle with his players, Guardiola said he told them to be proud of their performance.

“I said ‘why you have your heads down? Heads up, it was good’.”

City had 74% possession and almost double the number of their opponents’ attacks but have now drawn their last two games after being held 1-1 by Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Saturday.

CAME OUT SWINGING

Leipzig’s four-game winning run in the competition came to an end. The return leg is in Manchester on March 14.

The visitors, aiming to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for a sixth straight season, were in complete control in the first half.

They went in front when Jack Grealish easily intercepted a weak Xaver Schlager pass on the edge of the box and played the ball through the middle for Mahrez to finish.

Rodri should have doubled their lead three minutes later when he was left completely unmarked at the far post but his header sailed wide.

The hosts, who were outplayed in the first half and only had their first shot on target in stoppage time, came out swinging after the break.

They should have equalised when Benjamin Henrichs was left completely alone in the box but sent his low shot wide.

City keeper Ederson then palmed away an Andre Silva effort from close range before also denying Dominik Szoboszlai in the 69th as Leipzig poured forward.

The Germans were rewarded a minute later when Marcel Halstenberg floated a cross into the box and defender Gvardiol outjumped his marker to head in the equaliser.

“Two different halves,” Leipzig coach Marco Rose said. “We were too passive in the first and just ran after them. The second was different, exactly how we had imagined it and we put them under pressure.”

And substitute Romelu Lukaku volleyed an 86th-minute winner to earn Inter Milan a 1-0 victory over Porto in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.

Porto midfielder Otavio was sent off 12 minutes from time and Belgian striker Lukaku took full advantage to boost Inter’s bid to qualify for the quarterfinals of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time in 12 years.

“We played well against a very physical side. There are regrets that we failed to convert some of the first half chances, while we ran some risks after the break on the counter-attack, but the substitutions helped,” Inter manager Simone Inzaghi told Amazon Prime Italia.

Lautaro Martinez could have put Inter ahead after 13 minutes but sent his header wide from an unmarked position inside the box.

Inter keeper Andre Onana pulled off a good stop to keep out an effort from Marko Grujic who was played free inside the box by a backheel pass from Mehdi Taremi.

Alessandro Bastoni was close to giving Inter the lead in first-half stoppage time, but his downward header was expertly saved by Porto keeper Diogo Costa.

After Otavio’s dismissal for a second yellow card following a poor challenge on Hakan Calhanoglu, Inter poured forward in search of the winner and Lukaku headed Nicolo Barella’s cross against the post before knocking the rebound past Costa.

“We should’ve been quicker moving the ball around and building out from the back. It wasn’t easy with Porto pressing so aggressively, but we still deserved to take the lead in the first half,” Inzaghi said.

The win ended Inter’s run of four successive first-leg defeats in Champions League knockout-stage ties and sent the home crowd into raptures as they chanted the name of Lukaku who has endured an injury-plagued campaign.

Porto host Inter in the second leg on March 14.

RESULTS

Leipzig 1 – 1 Man City

Inter 1 – 0 Porto

*Courtesy: Reuters

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