After trying for 45 minutes to blow their biggest rivals over the last few seasons away, Liverpool tightened up to play out a 1-1 draw with Manchester City as they settled for a Premier League stalemate.
It looked like a classic was on the cards in the first half with both sides attacking relentlessly. Mohamed Salah put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot but were pegged back by a nice turn and finish from Gabriel Jesus.
Kevin De Bruyne had a chance to win the game from the spot but missed, before the Reds decided to be more conservative in the second half to ensure the game ended in a score draw.
A breathless first half was played more like a basketball match, with both sides producing dangerous waves of exciting attacking football in an attempt to blow the other away – both defences looked rather porous when pressure was applied.
But the second was much more measured and professional. While they offered very little by attacking threat, Liverpool were organised at the back and limited City to very few chances, looking for a long time like they were content with a hard-fought point on the road.
There was a change of formation for the Reds with both Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota started alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané as Jürgen Klopp elected to switch to a 4-2-3-1 setup to put the City back four under pressure.
Liverpool’s front four swarmed the Manchester City back line from the off, and reaped the rewards after 11 minutes when Kyle Walker’s brainless challenge brought down Mané in the penalty area. Salah stepped up with confidence to despatch from 12 yards.
There was a nervous moment for the Liverpool defence on 25 minutes when Wijnaldum was caught in possession in midfield. De Bruyne seized upon the opportunity and swept a dangerous ball across the penalty area to Sterling at the far post, but Alisson was alert to smother the shot and was grateful to have Matip on hand to clear.
But after that warning shot, City did find their equaliser shortly after the half-hour mark, when Gabriel Jesus turned Trent Alexander-Arnold a little too easily before poking beyond the helpless Alisson from eight yards to restore parity.
The hosts should have had the lead before half-time when VAR spotted a handball from Joe Gomez in the penalty area, and referee Craig Pawson gave the spot kick after consulting the pitch-side monitor. De Bruyne took the responsibility but pulled his effort wide of the post, surprising everyone in the stadium and watching at home.
Liverpool had a chance of their own to hold a half-time lead when Salah slid in Alexander-Arnold down the right. The Scouser’s effort was powerful and almost squirmed through Ederson, but the Brazilian was alert to gather at the second attempt just before the onrushing Diogo Jota got a toe in.
The beginning of the second half was more tepid, suiting the home side as they were able to take more control. They should have gone ahead when João Cancelo found Jesus in the box with a beautifully flighted ball, but the Brazilian headed wide from six yards.Embed from Getty Images
Alexander-Arnold collapsed on the pitch on the hour mark, indicating to physios that he had a calf issue. He was replaced by James Milner, and there will be a nervous wait after the game while the severity of that problem is assessed.
After that City took total control of the game, with the Reds not showing their dynamism in attack and struggling to make any real impact on the game. That said, they were well-drilled at the back, affording very few opportunities to the home side after Jesus had missed that golden chance.
Jordan Henderson floated in a late free-kick as the Reds hoped for a late sucker punch, but his delivery was found wanting and the referee called time on a game which ended in a fair result.
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