By Hani Na’eem – @hani_eem
The big game didn’t disappoint – you know, except from the result, of course.
After a pre-match build-up that was full of compliments and high praises from both sides towards their rivals, the top two teams produced a pulsating game.
The game was full of intensity, and both teams took turns to apply pressure on their opponents. The story from Liverpool’s perspective is good game management ruined by awful defensive mistakes and a lack of quality in the final third.
The Reds soaked up big pressure from a very energetic Manchester City side early on, but mistakes from Dejan Lovren meant that his teammates efforts at the back counted for nothing.
Here’s how the lads got on.
Alisson: 6 – A below average performance by the Brazilian shot-stopper, especially after the high standards that he established for himself between the sticks for Liverpool. A combination of bad distribution and a low percent of aerial success from outfield players meant Liverpool didn’t have the ball as much as they would’ve liked and were always under pressure. Did well on a couple of occasions, and his save off Aguero’s shot could’ve been huge had Liverpool managed to equalize for a second time.
Trent: 5 – The young fullback did well at times given the quality and the pace of Leroy Sane, but he needed support from midfield at almost all times. His could and should have been much better as he gave the ball away on numerous occasions.
Degsy: 3 – Where can one start with Dejan Lovren? The Croatian arguably undid his team’s valiant efforts at the back all by himself. Didn’t close Aguero down quick enough for City’s first goals and cynically gave the ball away to City, allowing them to score from a quick and well-taken counter attack. The self-proclaimed one of the best defenders in the world will surely feel he let his team down as his mistakes were vital enough to give City good enough chances to score.
Virgil: 8 – Anyone who watched the big Dutchman closely will tell you he didn’t set a foot wrong. Knew when to clear and when to take a short pass. Won a number of aerial duels and stepped into midfield on numerous occasions to disrupt City’s buildup play. His diagonal passes towards the fullbacks could have been better, but did a tremendous job and was arguably the reason Liverpool conceded only twice.
Robbo: 7.5 – Rumors of his potentially missing the match to witness the birth of his child arguably should have had fans more worried. He did a fantastic job covering the left wing against a Raheem Sterling whose pace and quality equal those of Sane’s. The highlight for me was his assist for Firmino’s goal. What a great pass to the opposite side and an even greater run into the far post to volley it across for Firmino’s equalizer! Robbo surely deserves the credit he gets for his consistency, and he showed today that he may even deserve more credit.
Henderson: 6.5 – Not the most inventive performance, but he did the dirty work quite well. Tucked in deep to ease off the pressure early on which probably helped the backline massively. His passing was the best among Liverpool’s midfielders. Overall a solid performance.
Gini (off 86′ for Sturridge): 6 – He was his usual calm self on the ball early on but gave the ball away sometimes as the game progressed. He supported Trent on the wing well and did his part with forward runs occasionally. Just like his captain, he covered plenty of ground to help the team cope with City’s quick passes and pace on the wings. Solid but dispossessed and slow in transition.
Milly (off 57′ for Fabinho): 6 – Selected over Fabinho for his energy and ability to support the wide areas, which he did. His passing was lacking, however, and didn’t offer much in an attacking sense. Good to have him back nevertheless!
Mo: 6 – Continued to make good runs, whether wide or into the box, but a lack of quality passes meant his chances were limited. Nice one-two with Firmino and a great pass to find Mané for Liverpool’s best chance of the game during the first half. Forced a good save from Ederson late in the second half.
Sadio (off 77′ for Shaqiri): 6 – Thought he looked the liveliest of the front three for most of the game. His first touch signalled some kind of a nervy performance. Dispossessed a couple of times and was kept relatively quiet on the left wing. Expected better against City’s third-choice left back.
Firmino: 7 – Hat-trick hero from last weekend had a really quiet first half. He wasn’t even seen making the drops that he usually makes. Was slightly more involved in the second half with a couple of shots and a good run to meet Andy’s cross and score. Naturally, we came to expect more from him, but did well to get on the score sheet with the little amount of chances that the team created.
Fabinho (on 57′ for Milner): 6.5 – Made a noticeable impact after coming on. His accurate long passes were the obvious upgrade on Milner’s, and he started the attack for the goal with his pinpoint pass to Trent on the right wing. However, he still look prone to making dangerous square passes when put under pressure and gave the ball away on a couple of occasions.
Shaqiri (on 77′ for Mane): 6 – Failed to make an impact on the game after coming on. Provided cover for Alexander-Arnold after Sane had the better of him late on. Was brought on to help create chances but failed to do so other than a decent corner late on.
Sturridge (on 86′ for Gini): N/A – Had very little time to try and change the result late.