Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa heaped praise on each other after an entertaining 1-1 draw at Elland Road in the Premier League on Saturday.
Spaniard Guardiola has made no secret of his admiration for Bielsa, with the City manager calling the Argentine the best coach in the world in the past, while saying this week the Leeds manager is the man he “probably admires most in world football”.
It is well known Guardiola adopted the same possession-based philosophy as Johan Cruyff at Barcelona but Bielsa is another man the Spaniard sees as a mentor, having flown to Argentina to ask him for advice before taking his first coaching role.
In the first meeting between the coaches in England, in the pouring Yorkshire rain, they stuck to their attacking principles, with fans watching from afar treated to 35 shots at goal as both sides went all out for victory.
“That was good, huh?” Guardiola said. “When both teams want to attack, it’s a good game. They are difficult to face because they have five players behind our midfield line and attack our defence. They are a fantastic team.
“It was an entertaining game for everyone. I’m incredibly proud of these players who enjoy football and come to this country and play many years at a high level. We couldn’t do more because the opponent was so good like all Marcelo Bielsa sides.”
Bielsa, who is famed for perching on a bucket to watch games, spent much of the first half of this intense encounter pacing up and down his technical area as City dominated and deservedly got themselves in front through Raheem Sterling.
But City could not score the crucial second goal their dominance warranted and whatever Bielsa said at the break inspired his side, who deservedly levelled through Rodrigo Moreno and then looked the most likely to go on and win.
City goalkeeper Ederson brilliantly denied Rodrigo a second for the hosts as he tipped the Spanish striker’s header on to the crossbar before, in a pulsating finale, City had chances to snatch all three points.
“It would not have been fair if we won this game,” Bielsa said. “It was possible to win the game but it would not have been fair.
“We had to put in an immense physical effort to be on even terms with City, and City played a huge part. They are a very powerful team, who play with a natural inclination to attack. We played our part for the game to be a beautiful one.”