Manchester City v Liverpool – Match Review
On paper, the game sounded like it was going to be free flowing, high pressing and goal filled. It started brighter than the meeting at Anfield, the teams seemed less frightened of going at each other. City started fast and direct, exactly what they should’ve done against Monaco during the week.
The short passes were sharp and in the most part successful. However neither side really did much for the early stages. But both teams grew into the game. Silva had a decent chance as he ball bounced out to him, he had to hit it early, but put it narrowly wide.
Leroy Sané continued his superb form and caused Clyne at rightback problems. He managed to get several very good crosses into the Liverpool box, low and hard behind the defence. However, neither Agüero or Sterling running in could put the chances away.
Raheem Sterling was brought down when he should’ve had an easy tap in. From where I was sat in the ground, it was difficult to see what happened and how the chance wasn’t put away. There was a bit of confusion in the crowd around me at the time, but by all accounts, it should’ve been a penalty. At the time of writing this, it’s only an hour since the game finished and I’ve not seen the replay, they didn’t show it at the ground – they tend not to if it’s a controversial decision.
Referee, Michael Oliver, was having a good game up until the 25 minutes mark, after which he started to look at sixes and sevens. That said, he wasn’t helped by his linesman and there were times in the first half where they couldn’t even get a throw-in right between them.
City did let Liverpool back into the game in the final 15 minutes of the first half. There were reminders that Clichy, despite his efforts, is no longer the player he was, and Fernandinho is by no means a full-back. Neither had particularly bad games, but they were both just out paced and turned too easily by the opposing, and mostly younger, Liverpool wide men.
Whilst we’re on the subject of Liverpool players, is it just me or is Lallana really just not as good as the papers and pundits (most of whom are Liverpool hangers-on anyway) say he is? In the last 12 months, I’ve heard that he’s the brightest prospect England have to offer… Seriously… I think he’s a semi decent player, in fact I’d go as far as to say that he’s the best player at doing stepovers when the ball is stationary in the league, but what’s that got to do with the price of bread? Nothing! If he wasn’t so caught up in his own hype, then there’d be potential there to make a good player out of him. However, the close proximity of his head and his own sphincter, means that he’ll never live up to his own potential.. but I digress.
Another thing that was clear, is that Liverpool, like City, have serious problems in the centre of defence. Their fans might correct me here, but Ragnar Klavan is not up to the standard required to play at a top four Premier League club.
As I was reflecting at half time, word came through from a United fan watching the game at home, that City should’ve had TWO penalties in the first half; 1 for Klavan pulling on Agüero and the other for Milner kicking Sterling’s foot as he tries to get a shot away.
As mentioned above, the worry i had at half time was that it was feeling a lot like the Spurs game a few months ago… City hadn’t taken chances, they’d not had the rub of the green and the feeling was that this could all come back to haunt them in the second half.
James Milner was getting the boo treatment from City fans. Let me be clear, this is because he’s again been “gobbing off” during the week leading up to the game. So any boos that he gets from City fans, he’s brought it all on himself. Milner was given a hero’s goodbye when he left. City fans had taken well to him for his consistent effort, and nobody could begrudge a 28-29 year old who wanted to leave for more game time. However, in the build up to each game since, he’s shown no reciprocal respect to the club since leaving. Maybe he’s bitter? He proclaimed that he left to “win trophies, play as a central midfielder and further his England career”… how’s that going James?
The second half started a bit more tentative, perhaps as the first half was expected to began. Liverpool took the lead after being given a penalty (and it was a penalty before any City fan with blue tinted specs disagrees!). A reckless and needless challenge of sorts by Gäel Clichy. The aforementioned Milner stepped up and sent Willy Caballero the wrong way. Fair play to him, it was a well took penalty against a keeper that’s got a bit of a reputation as being dependable against spot kicks. 1-0 to the Merseyside whingers…
Like I said, it was feeling very much like the Spurs game. City were playing well, Liverpool were too, but City looked like they had the edge. The problem being that they only looked like they had the edge at this point, they’d so far not took the initiative. Needless to say, the Liverpool penalty irked the home crowd and the atmosphere on and off the pitch stepped up a gear.
The fans were almost agasped when Liverpool had the chance to score a second goal during the second half. However, Lallana, “the best player in the league”, fluffed a golden opportunity. Firmino was already celebrating, as Lallana air kicked in front of an open net. It’s was an absolute howler…
Pep Guardiola made the decision to take off Yaya Toure and replace him with Bacary Sagna (I’ll get to Sagna in a minute). Personally, I didn’t think Toure had been playing too bad and I’d said to those around me that I’d have taken Kevin de Bruyne off instead. If you’ve read my other articles on City recently, you’ll recall that I’ve not been convinced by de Bruyne’s performances since before the Chelsea game. He’s not looked right at times. Passes have been poor and he’s looked frustrated. He did virtually nothing up until 47 minutes against Monaco during the week, and during that game he only mustered a poor 60% pass completion. However, what do I know, because soon after Pep made the change, City were back in it. De Bruyne played a superb low ball from out wide on the right hand side and Agüero latched on to the end of it and tucked it in the Liverpool goal. Pep 1 Me 0.
Bacary Sagna should’ve been fresh after coming on, but he looked lethargic and misplaced three or four passes, which put John Stones under pressure. City could’ve done without that as Liverpool are so dangerous on the counter attack. I must say, I thought Stones was superb. Like the Joe Root of football; a young, promising Yorkshireman with a mature head on his shoulders. He does it in the big games and I’d not be surprised to see him wearing the armband at club level in the future. It would seem that Pep agrees with me, as he’s just been on the radio and said: “John Stones has more personality than everybody here in this room. More balls than everybody. I love this kind of player.”
All in all, City didn’t do enough to win it. Agüero skied a good effort over the bar late on when he had time to control the ball.
Potentially, City could’ve had a penalty late in the second half; Sterling was through on goal after a good ball over the top. Mignolet came charging out and got the man. The ball bobbled wide for a corner. Michael Oliver wasn’t interested in giving the penalty. Again at the time of writing, I’ve not seen the replay of this either, perhaps another hint that it was a contentious decision, as it wasn’t shown at the ground. It did feel like if it had been any player other than Sterling, then it would’ve been given as a penalty.
The game was a great one for the neutral, but frustrating game from my point of view as a City fan. The blues were wasteful and some might argue that they were up against it.
There’s two season defining games up next; in the form of Arsenal and Chelsea away. A win in at least one of those two games is a must, or City fans might start to worry about a top four finish. However, there’s no need to panic long term though, as all the signs are glaringly obvious; City are in the right hands and Pep needs fans to get behind him. The problem is that a lot of City fans have been spoilt in recent years and so this frustration that is creeping in, and the panic leading to doubt, is purely because of City fans wanting short term success. We need to accept that there is no quick fix. Pep has inherited a team in need of an overhaul. There will be huge changes in the summer, some will be unpopular decisions as well, but the team is being built with a new spine – Sterling, Sané, Jesus, Stones, Gundogan and KdB, plus new full backs and a keeper. Expect 5 or 6 signings in the summer. They’ll be young, hungry, technically gifted, but more importantly, intelligent players.
Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp – who has more teeth than the entire Osmond family (Red Dwarf fans will appreciate the reference) – will be pleased with the draw, but City should feel frustrated that they couldn’t make more of the chances they created. [S.S.D.D.!]