Possibly the only sporting event as hyped as the boxing match between KSI and Logan Paul last weekend, Manchester City traveled to Anfield to take on Liverpool in the Premier League. Unlike the fight in Los Angeles, this match-up was between two teams with bags of ability and a track record of success.
Despite the good early season form of Chelsea and Leicester City, both collecting 2-0 victories at the weekend, the game in Liverpool was billed as the battle of two kings — European champions Liverpool and English
champions Manchester City.
Man City’s struggles with injuries this season have been well-documented. Defenders Oleksandr Zinchenko, Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy were all missing, so Manager Pep Guardiola was forced to field a makeshift back four featuring Fernandinho, who usually plays in midfield, and Angelino, a player who had only featured in three of City’s 11 Premier League games to that point.
Jurgen Klopp had no such worries with his team selection. Only Joel Matip was out with injury, replaced with the experienced Dejan Lovren rather than Joe Gomez in the centre of defence, partnering Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool played it safe in midfield, opting to start with the solidity of Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum over the mercurial Malian Naby Keïta.
Anfield was typically raucous, the home crowd singing the club’s anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as their team took to the field. Thousands, too, made the short journey across from Manchester, painting a corner of Anfield in Man City’s sky blue. It was the away team that made the faster start, dominating the ball in the
first five minutes.
That jump start didn’t last long. In the sixth minute, Sadio Mané’s cross from the left-wing was poked away by Ilkay Gündogan, but went to another Liverpool player. Fabinho had time to take a touch, before launching a piledriver into the top corner from 25 yards out. Claudio Bravo in the City net had no chance, and Liverpool found themselves a goal up.
However, this goal wasn’t without controversy. Referee Michael Oliver waved away a handball appeal against Trent Alexander-Arnold in the buildup to the goal. As Alexander-Arnold was in his own penalty box, Manchester City insisted they should have been awarded a penalty kick. Much to manager Guardiola’s frustration, the VAR confirmed Oliver’s original decision, adjudging that because the ball touched Bernardo Silva’s arm before rebounding onto Alexander-Arnold’s, it couldn’t be a penalty
Just six minutes later, Liverpool put the ball in the back of the net again in controversial fashion. Mo Salah nodded in a fantastic cross from Andy Robertson, who himself was the recipient of a supremely skillful cross-field pass from Alexander-Arnold. However, the increasingly animated Guardiola felt Salah was offside – Vide Assist Referee replays showed that he was in fact in line with the last defender.
Man City struggled for the rest of the half. The patchwork defence couldn’t cope with the movement of Liverpool’s fast, fluid front three – Angeliño especially having a very bad day against former Premier League Player of the Season Mo Salah. City was perhaps lucky to go into the break with a chance of getting something out of the game, at just 2-0 down.
That scoreline wasn’t to last. Soon after half-time, Jordan Henderson found himself with the ball on the right-wing. A central midfielder by trade, he rarely has the opportunity to cross – but he delivered a brilliant ball to Mané at the far post, who dived to head the ball past Bravo into the City goal. Now it really did look like game over.
City did manage to pull a goal back – Bernardo Silva squeezing the ball past goalkeeper Alisson at the near post with just over 10 minutes to play. It was a nervy finish from Liverpool, who failed to get the ball under control for the last portion of the game, having to repel wave after wave of City attacks. However, Silva’s goal proved to be Liverpool’s only lapse, as they held on
to win 3-1.
There is no Premier League action this weekend, as players leave club sides to join their national teams. However, club loyalties haven’t been forgotten – Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling was dropped from the English side, as he squared up to Joe Gomez in an argument relating to Sunday’s match at Anfield. It seems that for most top players, club rather than country is the priority.