Points Shared at the Etihad as CL Qualification Remains Wide Open.

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Manchester City 1, Liverpool 1.
Match report by Umarah Naz.

If ever an advert was needed for English Premier League football then Manchester City against Liverpool on Sunday afternoon was it.

Two teams who know no other way of playing than to attack the opponents goal. The 1-1 draw at the Etihad was a frenetic, end-to-end game that had everything but a winner. Some fantastic football, crunching tackles, mildly pathetic booing, unsuccessful penalty shouts, dubious yellow cards, possible red ones, some glaring misses, a cracking penalty, a great goal and to top it all off, the most English of all English things…some torrential rain.

The rain, however, did nothing to dampen City’s bright start to the game. They looked dangerous from the outset as they attempted to stifle Liverpool out of the game early on.

The Reds have so often come out of the blocks quickest in these high profile games, but City set the tone and Liverpool found themselves second best much of the first-half. And although they improved in the latter stages of the half, they would have been pleased to go into the break with the 0-0 scoreline.

City’s main chances came from David Silva in the twentieth minute when a Sane shot was saved by Mignolet but fell to the Spaniard who shot wide. The best came near the end of the first-half when Silva crossed for Raheem Sterling who lost his footing when James Milner tackled from behind to stop a sure goal.

Fernandinho could only hit the ball wide. Replays showed that Sterling should have had a penalty as Milner made contact, but Liverpool’s fortune prevailed.

But Klopp’s men weren’t the only fortunate ones on the day. Yaya Toure was mightily lucky to stay on the pitch when Emre Can was acquainted with far too many of Toure’s studs during a tackle.

Michael Oliver, however, thought it was worthy of only a yellow. Moments later, Sadio Mané outpaced Otamendi leaving him clean through but as he went to shoot he clipped the defender behind him causing him to lose his footing and go down. Calls for a penalty were optimistic and unfounded.

Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana all had their own decent chances to break the deadlock too but an entertaining first-half remained goalless. An unexpected scoreline with two of the most questionable defences and scintillating attacks in the league.

But it wasn’t to stay 0-0 for long. Five minutes into the restart, Gael Clichy fouled Firmino who found himself in a great goal scoring position after, man of the match for the second game in a row, Can, played a lovely long chip into his path.

The referee pointed straight to the spot and up stepped ex-City man, James Milner, who had been mercilessly booed the whole game.

If ever there was a time to silence the critics, this was it. But would nerves get the better of him? Klopp certainly couldn’t watch. Then again, he never does. Like Steven Gerrard, Milner rarely disappoints in these situations and he coolly gave Liverpool the lead.

The Etihad was silenced but only momentarily. City piled on the pressure and looked even more dangerous when Guardiola switched Silva and De Bruyne, with the latter’s efforts proving instrumental in City’s sixty-ninth minute equaliser.

The Belgian’s cross was inch-perfect for Aguero who side-footed the ball past a sprawled Mignolet. It had been coming, and City now looked the more likely winner.

Coutinho, who had another quiet game by his standards, was replaced by Divock Origi who was battling to make the bench after an injury worry.

The last fifteen minutes of the game saw chances for both sides to collect all three points. De Bruyne hit the post after Aguero slipped at the crucial moment of shooting into the net. But it’s the eightieth minute of the game will live long in the memory for Liverpool fans. Of all the inexplicable moments in history, Lallana’s miss will rank highly.

There will be numerous analyses of why he missed and that the ball was coming at a certain angle or a specific velocity, but there really was little excuse. Even though he had a second to take a touch, he chose to hit the open space first time and didn’t even connect.

It was the most decisive moment of the game which should have seen Liverpool take all three points home. City had their own shocker when Aguero found space only to put Silva’s cross over the bar. As it was, a point would have to suffice; a point that Guardiola seemed a lot happier with than Klopp was. Can was the standout player for the Reds as he ran his heart out, continuing his theme of attempting to intercept any City attack and dominate the midfield with his presence and strength.

Liverpool, once again, stay unbeaten against their close rivals, but this was one they needed to win more than City (who have a game in hand). And whilst a point at the Etihad is certainly nothing to ashamed of, Liverpool have shown their ongoing frailties against weaker opposition, so there’s no guarantee that the points will flow come the rest of the season.

Maybe Reds will be able to look back in a few weeks or months at this point with pride and see it as an important one in their quest for Champions League qualification. Right now, as Klopp said in his post-match interview, it’s a somewhat disappointing feeling.

Liverpool remain fourth in the table with Manchester United hot on their heels, albeit four points behind but with two games in hand.

Nine games to go for Klopp and his boys to give it their all and prove the sceptics wrong, and keep showing the offensive traits that have made their football so enjoyable to watch at times.

Nine games to save their season and set a solid foundation for the next one.


Featured image by Kamran Hussain

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