Oxlade-Chamberlain (9′), Firmino (59′), Mane (62′), Salah (68′) // Sane (41′), B. Silva (84′), Gundogan (90+1′)
Oh. My. Word.
Liverpool were responsible for not only one of the best Premier League games of the season today but also for ending Manchester City’s hopes of an unbeaten season with a brilliant 4-3 victory at Anfield on Sunday afternoon. Goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were enough to withstand a late surge from the Citizens and move the Reds above Chelsea and into 3rd place in the Premier League.
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There was plenty of both positivity and negativity in the build up to the game. Positivity because we always seem to turn up against City at Anfield and this game was almost set up for a Liverpool win. Negativity because we would have to do it without £75m signing Virgil Van Dijk who was ruled out with a tight hamstring. More negativity surfaced when RB Leipzig confirmed on Twitter that Guinean midfielder Naby Keita, already set for a move to Liverpool in the summer, would be remaining in Germany until then. Followed by even more negativity when Dejan Lovren was announced to not only be starting but also to be starting as captain.
All the backdrop seemed to melt away after the game began and it just became a battle of two of the most entertaining teams in the league. It only took 9 minutes for the game to provide it’s first moment of brilliance. Firmino did fantastically to win the ball back from the City midfield and get it to Oxlade-Chamberlain who took the ball in his stride a ran at the heart of their defence. Looking nothing like the bit-part player that he was in Arsenal’s ranks before signing he drilled a brilliant low shot into the bottom left corner.
1-0 Liverpool and just the kind of start Jurgen Klopp will have desperately wanted from his team.
The goal seemed to invigorate the Reds as the were the better side for the rest of the half. There is always that defensive mistake in this side however as, with 5 minutes remaining before the interval German winger Leroy Sane managed to bamboozle Joe Gomez and get a stinging shot off to Loris Karius’ (Klopp’s goalkeeper of choice for the day) near post and into the net. Karius perhaps should have done better with his stop as the goalkeeper debate continues as to whether he or Simon Mignolet should be our number 1 (with Alisson perched in the wings).
1-1. Things not going badly however and signs of promise shown.
The second half is where Liverpool truly showcased their credentials as they became the dominant force that their opponents have been the entire season thus far. The pressing that the Reds produced was as good as anything that has been seen under Jurgen Klopp since he arrived. The relentless press paid off when Firmino completely outmuscled John Stones to reach a throughball and curl the ball over and around the rushing Ederson, off the post and into the net. It was a goal almost identical to that of Robbie Fowler against Manchester United in 1995. The Brazilian has been subject to rumours that the Liverpool hierarchy want to offer him a contract that keeps him at the club for the rest of his career. And on this basis it looks like it will be worth every penny. He’s an integral part of the way we play. The most underrated player in the league possibly.
2-1 Liverpool and the best was yet to come.Embed from Getty Images
Immediately after Firmino’s goal the Reds seemed to kick it up a gear and Pep Guardiola’s team just couldn’t live with us. Press after press after press eventually, three minutes later, lead to Mo Salah winning the ball back and playing a nice pass over to Sadio Mane just outside the area. The Senegalese winger, who has received minor criticism for some of his recent substandard performances, silenced his critics here with what can only be described as a thunderbolt of a shot into the very top left had corner of the goal. The way he struck the ball and the power that he put behind it gave Ederson in goal no chance.
3-1 and Klopp’s men were on a rampage.
More relentless press (you can tell I enjoyed it by how many times I’ve used the word) and another City mistake later and we were 3 goals ahead. This time a wayward forward pass from Salah lead to Ederson coming and kicking the ball clear. Except he didn’t kick it clear at all. Instead he almost passed the ball straight back to the man he got it from and all the beautiful Egyptian had to do was lift the ball over the stranded keeper and into the empty net. It was still from over 35 yards so there was still a lot to do but it was easy stuff for Salah who takes his tally to 24 goals for the season, equalling that of both Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge’s best goal tallies in a Liverpool shirt.Embed from Getty Images
4-1 and absolutely cruising.
This is where I began to get a bit nervous. That last goal had happened in the 68th minute. That meant there was still 25 minutes (including injury time) for City to regain some kind of foothold in the game. We have shown this season (*cough* Sevilla *cough*) that we don’t do well when we have a comfortable lead. We concede one goal and then everyone panics and concedes two more goals shortly after. This is exactly what almost happened today. Bernardo Silva, a City substitute (and one of my chosen replacements for Coutinho but that’s neither here nor there), found himself completely free in the area in order to poke past Karius.
4-2. Well we all knew where this was going.
Two goals up in the 85th minute you’d expect a fanbase to be quite relaxed. Not this fanbase. You could feel the tension begin to rise even through the TV coverage as everyone thought the exact same thing…here we go again. It got even worse as, in the first minute of 4 added on (!), Dejan Lovren, being Dejan Lovren decided to be about as Dejan Lovren as you can get and go on a little wonder. He missed the tackle he was trying to make so he trotted back as City continued their attack. He got back into position just in time…to miss his header and let Ilkay Gundogan score.
But then the game ended.
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It would have ended 4-4 if Sergio Aguero had scored his header seconds before the final whistle but as it was the game ended with Liverpool getting all three points and ending City’s incredible unbeaten run. The blue side of Manchester will almost certainly finish the season with another Premier League title but we’ll be able to say that we were the first to beat this new super team. Beat them at their own game as well. Fantastic.
Can’t wait to draw 0-0 with Swansea next Monday, see you then!