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Joko Gvardiol stifled the threat of Manchester City star Erling Haaland before scoring himself to earn Leipzig a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their round-of-16 matchup in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The Croatia centre back, nicknamed “Little Pep” because of the similarities of his last name with that of City manager Pep Guardiola, headed home the equalizer in the 70th minute after Leipzig finally got to grips with the English champions.

City dominated the first half without Haaland, its top scorer, getting a sight on goal and Riyad Mahrez netted the 27th-minute opener after Ilkay Gundogan flicked through a pass from Jack Grealish.

As Haaland grew frustrated in the second half, City lost control of the game and Leipzig posed more of a threat, creating the better of the chances.

It leaves the match well-poised heading into the second leg on March 14 in Manchester as City looks to win its first Champions League title.

Guardiola held a mini-debrief with his players on the field after the final whistle, clearly unhappy at seeing the team throw away the advantage after a first-half performance that could have led to more than just Mahrez’s 20th Champions League goal.

Haaland had only seven touches before halftime – none of them coming in Leipzig’s penalty area – and he had only one opportunity in the whole match, when he got free down the right midway through the second half and snatched at a shot that dribbled wide.

Leipzig’s extra intensity and aggression paid off as the German team finally showed why it had lost just one of its 20 previous matches in all competitions.

Benjamin Henrichs side-footed wide when he was one on one with goalkeeper Ederson, who got down well to deny Andre Silva.

However, Ederson was left stranded when Marcel Halstenberg swung over a left-wing cross and 21-year-old Gvardiol – one of the best defenders at last year’s World Cup and among Europe’s most sought-after young players – got above Ruben Dias to nod the ball into an unguarded net.

When Leipzig last visited City’s Etihad Stadium, it was routed 6-3 in a wild group-stage game in the Champions League last season.

Lukaku strikes late to snatch win for Inter over Porto

MILAN Romelu Lukaku is back. After ending his goalscoring drought last weekend, Lukaku scored late to fire Inter Milan to a 1-0 win over 10-man Porto on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 matchup. They were Lukaku’s first goals since October and took his tally to just four since returning from Chelsea in the off-season. Porto midfielder Otávio was sent off following a second yellow card 12 minutes from time. The second leg is on March 14 in Porto. Inter has lost only once since the beginning of November, while Porto came into the match on a 22-game unbeaten run and had only let in two goals in its past 11 matches.

Government proposes regulator to oversee English soccer

LONDON A government plan would allow English soccer to be overseen by an independent regulator to ensure the financial sustainability of clubs throughout the leagues and stop teams from joining breakaway competitions like the European Super League. In what is described as a “radical transformation of the rules governing how football is run in England,” the British government is acting on a recommendation from a fan-led review carried out in the wake of the collapse of two lower-league clubs – Bury and Macclesfield – because of financial mismanagement. It also comes in response to the failed attempts of 12 of Europe’s elite clubs – including six from England’s Premier League – to set up a European Super League in 2021. The English clubs quickly shelved the idea after a backlash from fans and the government.

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