Pep Guardiola selected a near second-string Manchester City and saw his champions-elect fall to a dying moments defeat by a 10-men Leeds side who may have allowed Manchester United to dream a little again of overhauling their local rivals.
The winner came when Stuart Dallas sprinted clear along the left and beat Ederson with as cool a finish as his opener, which had come as the break approached. City had been suckerpunched due to the siege they had mounted on their opponent’s goal following Liam Cooper’s deserved red card for a dangerous chop of Gabriel Jesus’s leg moments after Dallas’s opening goal.
This was only a second loss for City in their last 24 league outings, and with the games running out they remain firm favourites to claim the third title of Guardiola’s reign.
Yet when Oleksandr Zinchenko and John Stones are the potent threats in Guardiola’s team it points to the disjointedness caused by his making of seven changes. In leaving out Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Ilkay Gündogan in particular, City’s manager had one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg at Borussia Dortmund. Guardiola may, though, be accused of losing focus on a Leeds challenge that always promised to be awkward due to the “organised chaos” Marcelo Bielsa schools his players in.
By 73 minutes Foden and Gündogan had both been introduced as Leeds still held on to Dallas’s opener. This, too, came from lax City focus. The culprit was João Cancelo whose wishy-washy defending of a high ball allowed Helder Costa in along the left. Suddenly the winger found Patrick Bamford who tapped the ball to Dallas, whose 20-yard shot pinged in off Ederson’s right post.
From here Leeds hung on - until Foden wandered on, as his presence alongside Gündogan, righted enough of City’s imbalance. A Fernandinho surge ended with him rolling a pass to Bernardo Silva who moved the ball on to Ferran Torres, and his equaliser was emphatic.
But in stoppage time came Dallas’s clincher and Leeds ended deserving maximum credit for a scintillating win. City still require only 10 points to be crowned champions, thanks to a goal difference that is far superior to United’s. It remains unlikely they will not.