In what is becoming the biggest game in the English football calendar, Jürgen Klopp sprang a surprise, opting for four attackers as Liverpool visited Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side at the Etihad Stadium.
Initially, the change worked a treat – the champions created a host of chances, and took the lead via a Mohamed Salah penalty.
Playing a 4-4-2 or 4-2-4 does charge the central midfielders with a mountain of work, but both Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson rose to the challenge with impressive displays. It was, however, Wijnaldum being dragged out of position which led to the City equaliser. A superb piece of skill from goalscorer Gabriel Jesus was followed up by a composed finish.
Joe Gomez was adjudged to have handled the ball a few minutes later, but the hosts failed to convert from twelve yards, Kevin de Bruyne dragging wide. Both sides slowed down the tempo after the break – as did the increasingly-soaked pitch – and Klopp’s team looked content to hold on for a point, towards the end.
Ultimately, that pursuit was a successful one, and the Reds maintain the five-point gap between themselves and the side expected to be their closest challengers in the Premier League this season.
Your ratings, after an entertaining and high quality contest in Manchester:
Ali 7.5 – the Brazilian’s alertness off his line saved the Reds on a number of occasions.
Trent 7.5 – very composed performance. Let’s hope the calf injury that forced the academy product off was a pull, rather than a tear.
Matip 6.5 – defensive work was solid but passing well below his usual standards. Still, first game back after a break.
Gomez 7 – very unlucky with the penalty and responded well, winning some key duels second half. Also, it should be mentioned that the 23-year-old’s clever positioning saved his side a goal when Wijnaldum gave the ball away midway through the first half.
Robbo 7 – slightly too eager to hit the ball long at times, but brilliant defensive display as the game wore on.
Hendo 8 – playing a midfield two requires top level awareness and stamina from the central midfielders. Henderson has both in abundance. Man of the match.
Gini 7.5 – on the edge of a ‘man of the match’ display, but just flashed a couple of mistakes, including a costly error when being dragged out of position for the Jésus goal. The Dutchman’s general level was outstanding, however.
Jota 6.5 – the Portuguese struggled to produce a solid connection when presented with two decent opportunities. Caused problems but faded in the second half.
Salah 7 – very mature and intelligent first half display, finding the net from the penalty spot. The Egyptian saw his influence lessen after the interval, though.
Firmino 6.5 – some of Bobby’s movement and pressing was top class today, but his recent struggles on-ball continue to plague him. Poor touches killed two or three potential counter-attacks, and led to his substitution.
Mané 7.5 – probably the best player on the pitch in the first half, winning the penalty and springing numerous breaks with his speed and intelligence. Seemed to keep energy levels best amongst the Reds’ frontline, but seemed hampered a little as the pitch became damper.
Shaqiri 6.5 – looked like he would change the game with first few touches, but forced deeper as City pressed.
Milner 7 – dealt well with Sterling down the Liverpool right, but was fortunate that Alisson could cover him with a header on one occasion.
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