A matchup which has become hugely important in recent seasons did not fail to disappoint. It seemed like a defining ninety minutes and, thankfully, the European champions prevailed.
Straight from the outset, Manchester City attacked at will. Pep Guardiola was well aware of defensive shortcomings, so attack was the best form of defence. Angeliño, who started at left back, was hell bent on bombing forward which, conversely, left gaps in behind the City defence.
Jürgen Klopp’s side – so well-versed in games of this magnitude – showed its mettle once again. Fabinho, reintroduced after sitting out last week’s game against Aston Villa, was perhaps the standout performer in the 3-1 win.
Liverpool are now 46 games unbeaten at home in the Premier League.
City’s Bright Start:
The reigning champions started the quicker of the two. Liverpool were pinned in their defensive third for the first five minutes.
Then in the sixth minute, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) came into play. A Dejan Lovren clearance appeared to ricochet off Bernardo Silva’s upper limb and then make contact with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s arm and thigh. Manchester City players, staff and manager went berserk (and rightly so).
But in the meantime referee Michael Oliver waved play on. Sadio Mané drove forward and delivered a low cross which İlkay Gündoğan failed to deal with.
Fabinho latched onto the loose ball and hit a screamer that Dietmar Hamann would have been proud of.
VAR Check Complete. No penalty. Fabinho’s goal stands.
Elation for the Redmen.
Liverpool Smell Blood:
Liverpool were then in the ascendancy. Klopp’s men are ruthless when given an inch and their dominance was soon reflected on the scoreboard.
Within fifteen minutes, the league leaders were two goals to the good. Trent Alexander-Arnold pinged an exquisite cross-field ball with his weaker foot to his fullback partner, Andrew Robertson.
The Scotsman galloped into open space with his head up looking for options. Robertson delivered an exceptional ball across the box which bounced up perfectly for the onrushing Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian King cushioned his header into Bravo’s net. City – all over the place – were suddenly on the back foot.
Henderson Delivers A Peach:
The remainder of the first half passed by without incident. Liverpool were comfortable in possession, and never looked under threat, despite the possession and passing numbers favouring the visitors.
But the next goal would be significant. City started the second half like the first, but the Reds remained resolute.
Then came a moment of technical genius by the Liverpool captain. Jordan Henderson, on City’s by-line, whipped in a phenomenal cross at the Kop End. Bravo misjudged the flight of the ball and Mané was lurking at the back post to nod home.
3-0. Game. Set. Match.
City Rally Back But to No Avail:
City refused to give in and continue to go forward. Villain in-chief Raheem Sterling was doing his utmost to derail Liverpool’s day. In spite of this, the Reds afforded him no such joy.
The English attacker was reduced to a whinging menace – a sight to behold for the majority of the Anfield faithful. Bernardo Silva did manage to pull one back for the champions, but it was too little too late.
Champions are forged in titanic tussles like this one. Liverpool overcame a defiant Aston Villa last week, and yesterday they dispatched their biggest rival with little fuss.
The Reds are now 8 points clear at the top. Crystal Palace await.