Liverpool thump City to end their unbeaten dream
Talk of Manchester City’s unbeaten campaign has been abruptly halted as Liverpool defeated the league leaders at Anfield.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put the Reds in front after less than ten minutes. The winger drove at the City defence and expertly placed his shot in the bottom corner.
Leroy Sane then equalised just before half-time as he broke free of Joe Gomez and shot straight through the hands of Loris Karius.
Roberto Firmino restored Liverpool’s lead in the second half, his chipped shot bouncing off the inside of the post.
Sadio Mane fired a shot off the post a minute later, before doubling his team’s advantage soon after that.
Mohammed Salah then made sure of the result, catching Ederson off his line and firing in from halfway.
However, they were forced to endure a late scare from Liverpool. Bernado Silva pulled one back for the away side five minutes before full time, before Ilkay Gundogan struck again one minute into injury time. Sergio Aguero then came whiskers away from an equaliser before being caught offside.
But Liverpool held on for a result that is sure to send shockwaves all across the footballing world. This sees the Reds climb back above Tottenham into the top four after their rivals thrashed Everton yesterday and shows City that they still have a long way to go before they are crowned Premier League Champions.
Near flawless in attack, but dangerous in defence
City’s game plan was one that fit Liverpool’s to a T. Guardiola’s infamous passing game always makes his side susceptible on the counter, which Klopp’s men are known for performing spectacularly.
Today was no exception to that at all. The performances of all of the Reds attacking players suggests that they may not miss Phillipe Coutinho after his record-breaking transfer to Barcelona after all.
Both Mane and Salah were superb once again, ripping the City back four to pieces all afternoon. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also had undoubtedly his best game since joining the Reds from Arsenal. His goal was superbly taken, with a spectacular run at City’s defence with an even better shot to follow.
But their performance was far from flawless. As it so often seems, their defence proved to be their weak link. Karius allowed Sane’s shot to slip through his hands far too easily and Gomez provided too much space on his left-hand side for him to slip through. Their defending was so poor they very nearly threw away such a comfortable lead in the last five minutes. They will certainly be eager for record signing Virgil van Dijk to return after a hamstring injury kept him out of today’s game.
But despite their flaws, they managed all three points against the best team in the league and deserve numerous plaudits. This should give them tremendous confidence in securing a top-four finish, though a title challenge still seems unlikely.
Guardiola’s stubbornness strikes again
This game once again highlights a common criticism that Guardiola has received throughout his managerial career – his lack of a plan B. Passing teams off the pitch is all well and good, but when it fails, you need to bite the bullet and shut up shop, especially in the Premier League.
However, the Spaniard has shown once again that this is not an option he wants his team to take. Liverpool are arguably the best counterattacking side in Europe, so to try that approach against them seems naive at best.
That said, you do have to respect Pep’s determination to continue to try and play the right way. It nearly worked for him too, and had the game lasted even one minute longer, it could well have done.
Another decision that seems baffling was that of playing Fabian Delph at left back. The England centre midfielder has filled in that role before but has often looked susceptible doing so. Today was no exception, allowing Oxlade-Chamberlain to run past him far too effortlessly. On the other hand, Delph was forced to come off after half an hour due to injury, and it didn’t seem to change much.
There is also the possibility that City were simply tired after their midweek cup tie against Bristol City. Having been pushed all the way by the West Country side, they did seem rather fatigued all throughout this afternoon.
Manchester City have been spectacular all season, but they must not allow this defeat to unravel all that fantastic work. If the players start to lose faith in Guardiola’s system again, it could be a much rockier road to the title than many have been expecting.