Manchester City vs Liverpool: Post Match Analysis
Team News: Liverpool made just one change as Roberto Firmino returned to the starting eleven replacing Divock Origi who dropped to the bench. With Henderson and Sturridge still injured, Can continued in midfield, and despite Dejan Lovren returning to fitness, Ragnar Klavan continued in central defence.
Liverpool XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Klavan, Milner, Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Mané, Firmino, Coutinho
Subs used: Origi, Lucas
Liverpool’s top four charge continued, as did their fine form against the top six sides, in a pulsating 1-1 draw with Man City. Some games are hard to review because of a lack of action, and some are hard to review because of just how much happened. From first kick to the last this was an incredible, at times controversial game of football, that will have induced heart-attacks in more than one Liverpool fan watching.
The home side got off to a faster start, with only the offside flag denying Sané and Sterling from getting in time and again down the flanks. Indeed, City should have gone 1-0 up on the 20 minute mark when Mignolet scrambled out Sane’s cross and David Silva fired over. If that let off felt tense, the worst was yet to come.
But it was Liverpool who dominated the middle period of the game, with two clumsy challenges from Otamendi plausibly penalties, the first on Mane as he ran in behind and the second on Wijnaldum who had wriggled free in the box. Moreover, Liverpool will feel Yaya Touré should have been sent off, as his high challenge ended up stamping into the fallen Emre Can’s midriff.
And the game exploded into life before half time, first as Raheem Sterling failed to make contact with a seemingly open goal under pressure from James Milner, who may have fouled him, only for Fernandinho to stab wide. At the other end, both Firmino and Lallana produced ferocious efforts testing Caballero.
But it was the start of the second half that Liverpool hit top gear, Emre Can’s glorious lofted pass taken on by Roberto Firmino, who was clumsily tackled by Gaël Clichy. Penalty given, and the ice cold James Milner slotted the ball home with far more aplomb than was necessary.
On the hour mark came the big chance, as Liverpool ran City ragged, a delightful ball from Coutinho freeing Firmino, who should have scored, only to be denied by Caballero. It felt a decisive moment in the match, and so it proved as City brought off Toure, stuck Fernandinho in the shifted midfield, and caused Liverpool endless problems.
And the warning signs were there before a wonderful cross from Kevin De Bruyne picked out Sergio Agüero, who finished emphatically. But Liverpool will be grateful that Aguero’s finishing wasn’t as emphatic on other occasions, as the Argentine missed a string of incredible chances to win the match, falling over, firing wide and also firing high all when he should have scored.
But the miss of the match, and possibly the season, fell to Adam Lallana, as Liverpool carved out one more incredible opening. The impressive Wijnaldum clipped the ball over the top, Firmino ran onto it and put the ball on a plate for Lallana, who only had to sidefoot the ball in from six yards. And he completely failed to properly connect.
This was a game that could have been 4-4. City had the chances to run away with the game, but the misses from Firmino and Lallana in particular will be equally gutting for the visitors. Both teams went hell for leather and the net result was a phenomenal game for the neutral.
But nevertheless, on balance a point is a good result for Jürgen Klopp’s team. It keeps Liverpool comfortably in the top four with teams around them all having to play each other, and means that the Reds haven’t lost a single game against the top six this season. Their fate is very much in their own hands.
Key Talking Points:
Emre and Gini boss the midfield again
Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum have both turned up for big games this season, dominating the likes of Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Again today, both players were the two best players on the pitch, winning everything in the middle of the park, beating City players for fun and passing the ball incredibly well. For the middle third of this game they ran rings around Yaya Toure and both were snide and ruthless when they needed to be.
Missed chances cost Reds
In a game where both teams will be rueing missed chances, Liverpool will be kicking themselves that they didn’t kill this game off. Whilst Lallana’s miss is the one that will be giving Liverpool fans nightmares, Firmino’s miss was arguably more crucial. With Liverpool 1-0 up and in total control, Bobby had all the time in the world to pick his spot, only to fire straight at Caballero. City managed to bounce back, but you have to take advantage when you’re on top.
Tale of two pens for Milner
Whilst Milner was emphatic from the penalty spot when Liverpool needed him to be, making it 7 penalties out of 7 this season, he nevertheless was slightly fortunate not to get one given against him, as replays showed that he caught Sterling as the City winger prepared to stick the ball in the back of the net. And it epitomised Milner’s performance in many ways. Brilliant at times, defensively sloppy at others, and he should have done better to prevent the goal.
Simon Mignolet – 6/10: Ended up not making many saves in a bonkers game for attacking. Did well to put off Sterling as he ran through, helpless for the goal.
Nathaniel Clyne – 6/10: Had to put in a massive shift today and did his job pretty well overall against a potentially rampant Leroy Sane. Four tackles and six interceptions represents a solid day at the office.
Joël Matip – 8/10: Excellent again for me. Defensively sound, three tackles, eight clearances and a terrific block. Keeps doing his job and put Aguero off for most of the night, although he let Aguero turn him once or twice.
Ragnar Klavan – 6/10: Tough one to rate. Put in a massive shift in the second half, with ten clearances and some crucial challenges but looked shaky in the first half and should have cut out the cross for Aguero’s goal.
James Milner – 7/10: Another tough one to rate. Clinical penalty taking cannot be understated, and was much better on the ball today. Put in some brilliant tackles too. But equally should have done better for Aguero’s goal and lucky not to concede a penalty.
Emre Can – 9/10: Colossus. Following up two tremendous performances with a third, as Emre won four tackles, bettered only by Milner, won 100% of his aerial duels, won a couple of free kicks and did some awesome running through midfield, culminating in a majestic pass to Firmino to win the penalty.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 9/10: If Emre was man of the match, Gini was a close second. Completed five take-ons, without taking a single bad touch. Passing game phenomenal as usual, including a scintillating pass to free Firmino for the Lallana miss. All over Man City. Starting to deliver consistently.
Adam Lallana – 5/10: Being generous because Lallana didn’t play that badly, but neither did he play well. Passed the ball okay, but dispossessed five times compared to 0 successful take-ons. Overwhelming feeling is how on earth did he miss that chance for the winner so had to be knocked down as a result.
Phillipe Coutinho – 6/10: Phil’s form really isn’t picking up is it? He was pretty poor in the first half, firing over from a decent position, but improved markedly after half time, playing a lovely pass for Bobby’s big chance. Pulled off early again.
Roberto Firmino – 7/10: On balance another player who could easily have been marked down for missing a big chance, but Bobby put in a really good shift. Worked very hard for the team and did some really good stuff on the ball: including winning the penalty and playing a lovely pass for Lallana’s big miss.
Sadio Mane – 6/10: Another okay performance from Mane. Should have done better when set through but caused Otamendi problems all day long with his pace and power. Just not his day in the end.
Divock Origi 6/10: Forced wide when he came on and not really given any opportunity to show his class.
Lucas Leiva – N/A: Cameo, no time to have an impact as Klopp tried to shore up for the draw with a few minutes left.
Man of the Match: Emre Can (again)
Written by Tom Holmes