Josko Gvardiol, a center back for RB Leipzig, scored a shot in the second half to even the score with Manchester City in their Champions League round of 16 matchup on Wednesday. Riyad Mahrez’s goal had previously been cancelled out.
As the linchpin of Croatia’s frugal defense and one of the World Cup’s breakthrough stars, Gvardiol displayed his attacking flair by leaping above the City defense to head in the equalizer in the 70th minute.
Mahrez gave City the advantage after 27 minutes, and they appeared to be headed for an easy away victory, but after the break in the first-leg match, their fluidity failed them.
The home team, who have won 20 straight games and have only lost once, found their stride in the second half and appeared to be the team most likely to advance to the Etihad for the second leg with a win.
Erling Haaland, the star striker for City, suffered from a lack of support as the injured Kevin de Bruyne was obviously missed by the Norwegian.
For the first fifteen minutes of the game, City controlled possession in the way that they are known for doing, but they were unable to create any chances against a well-prepared and organized home team.
“At the end, we were a little nervous, the coach told us to calm down, there are 90 minutes left to play,” said Mahrez.
Marco Rose, the Leipzig boss, added: “Two radically distinct halves. In the first half, we simply didn’t perform; we just chased the game and were terrible when we had it. The second game was very different; we were superior with the ball, recovered it better, and played according to plan.”
The game-changing goal was scored in the 27th minute by City midfielder Jack Grealish, who capitalized on a sloppily executed cross from Xaver Schlager by threading a vertical ball goalward.
The Leipzig defense focused on City skipper Ilkay Gundogan, but he allowed the ball to slip through his legs and into the path of Mahrez, who sliced a shot past goalkeeper Janis Blaswich’s fingertips and into the net.
Rodri went close to doubling City’s lead just three minutes later but put his header just wide.
Former Chelsea striker Timo Werner had half a chance in first-half injury time, but waited too long to unleash a shot and his deflected effort was easily claimed by Ederson.
At halfway, Leipzig switched out the wing backs Lukas Klostermann and Benjamin Henrichs in an effort to gain more penetration.
Early in the second half, the new player came close to tying the score twice, the first time with a spinning header and the second time when he missed a close-range shot while one-on-one with Ederson.
The host team immediately benefited from the introduction of Christopher Nkunku in the 66th minute, when they were playing their best. A minute later, striker Andre Silva forced a hurried save from Ederson.
Gvardiol snuffed out an Haaland counter attack and got the home side on the scoreboard soon after, climbing a metre higher than the City defence to head in the equaliser from a Marcel Halstenberg corner.
Both sides will travel to Manchester on equal footing for the rematch on March 14 after Man City held on as Leipzig looked for a victory.