Title race wide open as Man City beat Liverpool

Manchester City beat Liverpool 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium last night to close the gap on their title rivals to just four points. Sergio Aguero opened the scoring in the first half for the home side, before Roberto Firmino drew Liverpool level just after the hour mark. But Leroy Sane scored the winner 18 minutes from time as Man City won the game to put pressure on Liverpool in the title race.

The game was thoroughly enjoyable. Both sides had their chances, and both gave everything they had. But, in the end, the better team won the game. Man City were on top throughout, and deserved to pick up the three points. City began the game extremely positively. They pressed high up the pitch, and were full of energy as they didn’t give Liverpool a second on the ball. The Reds couldn’t settle on the ball, and gave it away under the pressure in the early minutes.

While City were well on top, it didn’t take Liverpool long to cut through them. Sadio Mane was played through on goal, but his shot hit the post. As it trickled back out, John Stones tried to clear from the six yard box. But Ederson went for the same ball, and it cannoned off the Brazilian goalkeeper. It looked like a certain own-goal, but Stones brilliantly slid in and cleared off the line: the ball was just over one centimetre from crossing the line as goal-line technology again showed its worth.

This chance was enough to make City respect Liverpool, though, and they dropped off a bit because of the worry of being carved open like that again. However, with five minutes remaining in the first half, City were ahead. There was some good work out on the left by Bernardo Silva, who did well to get a low cross away. It was picked up by Aguero, just a few yards from goal, and he smashed one in at the near post with his left foot. It was almost perfectly in the top corner, with the power generated enough to beat Alisson. The goalkeeper will be disappointed at being beaten at his near post, but, in truth, it was a fantastic finish and not much blame can be put on the ‘keeper.

Blame can be put on the defender that was picking Aguero up, though. Dejan Lovren – not for the first time in his life – was asleep, and allowed Aguero to get to the ball first. By the time he realised the danger and tried to get across, Aguero was already smashing in. City targeted Lovren’s side of the defence all night, which is no surprise. He’s a liability back there.

Some brilliant play from Liverpool saw them draw level after 62 minutes. A good passing move culminated in Trent Alexander-Arnold playing a fantastic ball towards the back post with his left foot. The ball just evaded Danilo, City’s right-back on the night, and found Andy Robertson at the back post. He wonderfully volleyed it back across goal, and Roberto Firmino was there to head in from close range. It was a team goal that Liverpool can be proud of.

But less than 10 minutes later, Man City took the lead again. Raheem Sterling received the ball out on the right, and ran infield. He spotted a run from Sane out on the left and played it out to him. It seemed that Sane had plenty to do, but he drove a low shot past Alisson, which went off the post and in. It was a fantastic finish from the winger, who now has seven goals and seven assists from the 19 Premier League appearances he’s made this season. This is especially impressive when you consider that he had a slow start and wasn’t even starting games at the beginning of the season.

For the last few minutes, Liverpool channeled their inner Stoke City and bombarded City’s box with crosses. There was some last-ditch defending from City at times, as there was throughout the game, but they managed to get it away every time they were under pressure. Lovren’s game was summed up when, with about one minute of injury time remaining, it was his turn to fling one into the box. He played a straight ball to van Dijk, which the Dutchman couldn’t reach, and it went out for a City goal kick. Van Dijk was upset with his defensive partner, and rightly so. He needed to play an angled ball in, which is standard stuff. Straight balls like that are rarely successful. It was another very poor piece of play by Lovren.

A few things really stood out last night. Aymeric Laporte had a good game playing at left back, which isn’t his natural position. Fernandinho was fantastic in Man City’s midfield. He ran things in there, rarely losing the ball and constantly winning it back. Bernardo Silva worked hard in there, too, while Aguero was tremendous up front. Sterling and Sane both had game games. Ederson’s kicking also deserves a mention, as it was brilliant.

Liverpool certainly weren’t at their best, though. As mentioned, Lovren was awful. I tweeted asking if he’d be better suited playing for Liverpool or Grimsby Town. Grimsby fans weren’t happy with the suggestion that he may play for them. Supposedly, they’re in the middle of a defensive crisis, but they still wouldn’t take him. That sums it up, really.

Alisson’s kicking wasn’t great, as he misplaced a few passes. Jordan Henderson should not be starting games of this magnitude anymore. He wasn’t particularly awful last night, but he’s so negative. Fabinho should be ahead of him in every big game. Henderson seems to always want to pass responsibility onto someone else, and doesn’t take it on himself. Even in the last few minutes, with long balls being pumped into the box, when he received the ball, he passed it short for somebody else to send in.

I expected either Henderson or James Milner to come into the side to replace Xherdan Shaqiri and make them a bit more solid in midfield, but I didn’t think we’d see both. The midfield of Milner, Henderson and Wijnaldum hasn’t always worked for Klopp, and he shouldn’t roll it out for another big game.

So, Liverpool are still top of the league, but what a difference a game makes. They could have been 10 points clear with a win last night, which would have made it very difficult for City to catch them. But now that lead is just four points and the pressure is on. It’s going to be a very exciting last few months of the season by the look of things. It’s just a pity these two fantastic teams don’t have to play each other again!

The title race is well and truly on, and it’s very hard to pick a winner at the moment.

That’s that for this morning. There was supposed to be an in-depth piece this morning, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to get it all written up, so I decided to go with this instead. Because of work and other engagements, I won’t be able to get that up until Sunday. It should be some stage Sunday afternoon. It’s on Southampton’s academy. I won’t be around tomorrow, so the next blog you’ll get will be on Sunday. I’ll see you then.

I hope you have a good Friday and Saturday!

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