Liverpool beat the nearly called “invincible” Manchester City 4-3 at Anfield to go third in the Barclays Premier League table. Goals from Oxlade Chamberlain, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah sealed the victory for Jurgen Klopp’s men. It was a pulsating game involving high-pressing of the exalted order from both sides. But, the home side took advantage of a nervy looking City back-line and punished them at every given opportunity. Below, we analyse the game and also, the goal moments will be looked at minutely.
The game began with both teams displaying what we expected and predicted pre-match, high-pressing and no time for midfielders on the ball. For the opening 10-15 minutes, Liverpool had the better of it with City taking time to settle into the game. The Chamberlain goal set the tone making it uncomfortable for the champions elect. It was a goal filled with power and precision. The England midfielder ran past Fernandinho in tight space and fire a low shot in the bottom right corner. Probably, Ederson was covering the near post too much expecting the ball to go to Salah wide, instead he was surprised by the shot which beat him.
The one thing which City did throughout that first half was play diagonal balls from midfield to either side wingers. Andy Robertson did well on many occasions to stop Raheem Sterling recieve and play the ball in space. Obviously the tactics from Pep Guardiola was to stretch the game with wide diagonal balls and exploit the space between centre-back and fullback with midfield runners. There were few times when Robertson did get caught but recovered well to stop the attack or was well supported by Wijnaldum and Mane that side. As City started to see more of the ball, they started to balance out the diagonal ball directions. Leroy Sane began to look threatening from left side.
A cross-field ball from Kyle Walker caught Joe Gomez out completely ball-watching. Sane, then had a relatively easier task of taking a touch and getting into the box. In the second phase, both Matip and Gomez were slow to shut down the angle for a left-foot shot. Even though Loris Karius was beaten rather erroneously in his near post, the buildup of the goal comprised of two phases, should have been stopped at one of those phases.
The half-time score of 1-1 was equal in all departments and we call it “game on a knife edge.” Both teams were prepared to go for more of the same with City looking to dominate the ball more.
The second half got underway with away side being more authoritative on the ball. This time though, the tactic was more to play along the ground through the lines and create space on the overlaps for the midfield runners in the box. But, Liverpool did very well to stop the supply lines and marked the runs from midfield. Can and Wijnaldum were very good in shutting the supply of de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan. Oxlade-Chamberlain supported the midfield by being more disciplined and tracking the runs.
The second Liverpool goal was all about midfield pressing and isolating de Bruyne with two men marking. Chamberlain came away with the ball and probably played a pass which was too straight and easily readable for John Stones. For some reason, he stopped allowing Firmino to go across him, bumping him in process and going one on one with the keeper (shown in the image). Thought the keeper was fooled there by the Brazilian forward with an audacious chip.
At this moment, the home side were all over City pressing high and almost having more energy than their opponents (press directions shown in the image). The third goal came just because Guardiola’s men started to lose composure under pressure with Otamendi giving the ball away to Salah. The Egyptian lays it onto Mane who thundered a shot into the top right corner. The strike was so pure and well-directed that Ederson, even with his big frame couldn’t get there with full stretch.
The third goal went it and Pep was seen cheering his team up as he started to realise his main principle game is getting outdone easily. City continue to play down the lines, for a change, Ederson did kick it long diagonally once or twice to break the press, a major victory for Klopp and his men to force that. The fourth Liverpool goal was all about quick counter-attacking move. Wijnaldum chipped a ball to bypass three City midfielders, including Fernandinho. This allowed free space for Salah, who almost picked a good pass for Mane. The goalkeeper came out to clear it and instead kicked it straight at the Egyptian, who then calmly chips the ball to an empty net. A daft mistake from Ederson who is generally great with ball at his feet.
That was the goal when many thought hold on, City are wilting here and predictions of them struggling at Anfield just because Liverpool mainly play similar style of football was getting truer minute by minute. Never we saw, atleast this season, the away side lacking ideas, especially in the creative department. To be fair to them, they continued to play in the same fashion not giving up on a three-goal chase.
Liverpool tired down after the 75-minute mark and City looked like scoring atleast one before the final whistle. Well, as it turned out, they scored two to run the game close. The third goal was a delightful one. Aguero somehow dig out a cross which was well met by onrushing Gundogan and expertly finished beyond Karius. The major phase in that goal was no one picking the run of the German midfielder. He just ghosted in the box, for once in between the centre-back Lovren and left-back Robertson.
It ended 4-3 at last with sighs and phews from Liverpool supporters. Neutrals just enjoyed the game and City fans were seen disappointed but not worried as they still are 15 points clear at the top. Given the style of football they play, a team like Liverpool were the best bet to beat them and they did. The game, in general didn’t disappoint. Klopp’s men didn’t disappoint in giving their fans a “mini-heart-attack” during the last 8 minutes. The duel to look after was Robertson v Sterling (with all the history of the City man involved) and it’s fair to say, the Scot won that battle handsomely with rousing help from the supporters absolutely making it terrible for the England and City winger.
It was a game well adverted for the Premier League, two managing philosophies who are rigid in one way or the other to play the way they play naturally. It brought out a fabulous entertainment for neutrals and heart-wrenching for respective team fans. Enjoy more of that in the coming weeks from Liverpool!