Liverpool maintained a five-point gap over Manchester City with the Premier League champions holding their title rivals to a 1-1 draw at the Etihad.
Mohamed Salah’s first half penalty and Gabriel Jesus’ 31st minute equaliser gave the early indication we were in for an exhilarating 90 minutes. This was far from the truth.
The first 45′ was explosive, filled with chances for both sides and each team being awarded a penalty. It was set to become one of the classic affairs between the Red’s and the Sky Blues. However, as the opening minutes of the second half unfolded it was clear that priorities and game plans had altered.
Liverpool had set up in a 4-2-3-1 with Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum given the task of patrolling the midfield areas as a duo rather than the regular three-man unit. It was a role they had played before but had never done so against a team with such devastating attacking prowess as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
The Englishman in particular was superb, taking control of the fixture and staying disciplined throughout, all whilst marshalling his colleagues around the pitch. This effort saw him receive the man-of-the-match award in the process.
While it may seem that the No.14 did little in the middle, only completing one tackle and one interception, his assertive leadership was the clear stand out feature of his display. He didn’t need to make tackles or interceptions; he just commanded his team into an excellent shape which limited the chances the home side could create.Embed from Getty Images
The England international’s leadership qualities were certainly tested, especially during the second half. Jürgen Klopp’s side looked tired. After playing three fixtures in seven days, several players looked on their last legs. They struggled to break out on the counter and were unable to maintain possession for a large portion of the half.
Recognising this, Henderson increased his vocal approach, constantly barking at his teammates, making sure everyone was pushing and seeing out the game in a solid and disciplined manner.
In such a compact season with games every three days, it is likely we will see situations where Liverpool are devoid of stamina again. However, with Jordan Henderson captaining the side there’s a guarantee that the players will be pushed to the limit every time they put on that red shirt.
While the Reds looked fatigued and drained of energy, their captain stood up once again to see Klopp’s side through to an important point – the first point Liverpool have obtained away to the Citizens since March 2017.
The skipper had a massive effect on the outcome of this fixture and come the end of the season, that result may very well be an extremely important one.
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