By Matt Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez
Liverpool lost their first match of 2019 and their first match of the season, falling 2-1 to Manchester City in the Premier League game at the Etihad Stadium.
The current champions took the lead through Sergio Aguero before Roberto Firmino equalised. Unfortunately for Liverpool, they weren’t level for long, with Leroy Sane firing in the winner minutes after the visitors got themselves back in the game. The defeat sees City climb from third in the table to second, and close the gap to four points.
Gini Wijnaldum kept his place after starting against Arsenal, with captain Jordan Henderson and match-fit James Milner joining the Dutchman in midfield. Liverpool fans were also relieved to see Andrew Robertson on the team sheet, after rumours circulated claiming that he hadn’t travelled with Klopp’s side.
A scrappy opening 15 minutes suddenly burst into life in the 17th minute as a counter-attacking Liverpool almost silenced a hostile Etihad stadium. Good link up play between the Reds’ famed front three saw Mané set through on goal.
The Senegalese could only strike the post, but confusion between John Stones and Ederson almost saw the England defender strike the ball off his keeper and into his own net – clearing the ball with 11 millimetres to spare. Following the passage of play, the mood in the Etihad shifted from hostile to nervous.
Despite the shift in atmosphere, the Champions quickly showed why they broke so many records last season – quickly grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and looking increasingly dangerous.
City’s possession soon paid dividends for the Sky Blues as they took the lead in the 40th minute through Aguero. Bernardo Silva took the ball down the Liverpool right flank before playing in a low cross towards the Argentine hitman.
Aguero was tightly marked by Dejan Lovren and, despite facing away from goal, a World-Class first touch allowed him the space to gain an inch on the Croatian defender, before spinning and slamming the ball past Alisson and into the roof of the net. The goal is the Argentine’s seventh goal in seven consecutive home games against Liverpool.
The second half started very much like the first ended, with the home side in the driving seat. Klopp looked a frustrated figure on the touch line as Liverpool seemed a shadow of themselves, struggling both in and out of possession, lacking the killer edge and the energetic press which had got them to the top of the league this season.
Clearly losing the battle in midfield, Klopp turned to Fabinho and a change in formation as he looked to change the result with 30 minutes left to play – and it worked.
With 63 minutes on the clock and City firmly pinned back in their half, Trent Alexander-Arnold skipped past Leroy Sane before playing a cross field long ball into the path of the advancing Andrew Robertson.
The flying Scotsman got in behind the City defence and could have gone for goal himself, instead choosing to lay a first touch ball across goal for Roberto Firmino, who nodded into Ederson’s empty net.
The goal seemed to deflate both City and their fans, with the travelling Kopites finally being heard and the current Champions looking shocked and dejected.
The feeling didn’t last long however, with Guardiola’s boys taking the lead not 10 minutes later through Sane. A long cross field ball found the German winger who controlled expertly.
The Young Player of the year proceeded to take on Alexander-Arnold, before making his way into the box and firing a low shot across Alisson, seeing the ball rifle off the post before nestling into the side netting.
The goal came against the run of play as Liverpool were starting to dominate play, with 18 minutes left and Xherdan Shaqiri entering the fray, it was now back to City to see if they could hold out for the three points.
The remainder of the match saw the game revert into a scrappy affair, with both sides giving the ball away as they looked to score. Unfortunately for Liverpool, they were unable to create any chances of note, almost going further behind as Raheem Sterling struck the post in the closing minutes.
Despite the defeat, Liverpool still remain atop the Premier League, ahead of Manchester City by four points, and ahead of Tottenham by six. Attention will now turn to Klopp and his squad, as the world will look to see how his team react following their first league defeat of the season.
Liverpool will look to bounce back in the league on January 12th when they travel to the south coast of England to take on Brighton & Hove Albion.