It was a game that everyone knew Manchester City needed to win. A Liverpool win and a ten point gap would have looked insurmountable, but after a few weeks of bad play, City knew that the performance was more important than the result. When they needed it the most, they got the performance and Manchester City toppled Liverpool.
Leroy Sane Helps Manchester City Topple Liverpool
From the moment the game began the intensity was on full display. When Fernandinho went wildly through the back of Sadio Mane after less than a minute, it was obvious. A game of two titans; two teams that play football at the highest level, and they went head to head in an epic Premier League game.
Manchester City controlled the game for the first 15 minutes. They had been on the front foot looking to create chances but that did not last. Liverpool started to grow into the game and in the 18th minute, they got an outstanding chance after a great move played in the Sadio Mane and his shot hit the post.
City’s defending was not done then, though, because the ricochet off the post back into the middle of the box force John Stones to try and clear it. His clearance went off a diving Ederson and ricocheted back towards the net. Then, in a split second, Stones turns around and cleared the ball off of the line fantastically. The ball was only 1.1 cm from crossing the line fully.
Liverpool and City continued to wrestle control of the game back and forth from one another. Finally, in the 40th minute, the hosts found a breakthrough when a quick cross from Bernardo Silva was met by Sergio Aguero and he fired a left footed shot from an acute angle into the top corner. The goal came after Aguero was on the ground appealing for a penalty, got up, and got behind Dejan Lovren, who lost track of him. Aguero then cut in front of Lovren and scored the opening goal just before half-time.
As the game progressed into the second half, it never seemed like it was going to let up. The pressure was endless and constantly growing as the seconds ticked off. After about ten minutes of the first half, Jurgen Klopp made his first change, and it was a crucial one when the Brazilian, Fabinho, came on for James Milner.
With Fabinho on, Liverpool switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 and it brought them back on top after a strong start to the half from City. Fabinho started pinging balls over the pitch, probing, and Liverpool ascended to the top with it. Eventually, they got their reward for their ascendence when Roberto Firmino headed in a lovely cutback from Andrew Robertson.
The goal came during Liverpool’s best period of the game and they looked like the team had all season. The change in formation with Mohamed Salah moving upfront makes Liverpool so dangerous when Fabinho is in midfield, inviting the full-backs into the attack. City needed a spark and they got it.
It came in a lightning-quick counter-attack. A lovely ball out of the back from Danilo found Raheem Sterling near the center of the field. He made a few moves to get space and found Leroy Sane perfectly in space outside the box. The German did the rest, getting by the defender and placing a lovely shot into the bottom corner.
After City took the lead in the 71st minute, it was all-hands-on-deck time for the reigning champions. Liverpool threw everything they had at City, bringing on Xherdan Shaqiri and, eventually, even Daniel Sturridge made an appearance. However, their attempts to equalize were stopped by some great defending.
Manchester City stopped every pass, blocked every shot and made every clearance they needed to just get over the line. It was Liverpool’s first loss in the Premier League this season but it was not a bad performance. Manchester City only just edged Liverpool in an outstanding, epic Premier League game.
What it Means
The win for City brings Liverpool’s lead atop the Premier League down to four points, but it will still be a tough challenge. Liverpool only have three games against the other big six clubs left this season and, luckily for Liverpool, two of them (Chelsea and Spurs) are at home. If City or anyone are going to catch Liverpool, they are going to have their work cut out for them.
This performance by Manchester City is the biggest takeaway from this game. Usually when City’s performance is lauded, it’s for their slick passing and free-flowing attack. Instead, this game is all about their desire, all about their belief and all about their resolve. They would not give up against Liverpool on any part of the pitch.
John Stones and Vincent Kompany were especially outstanding. Kompany, aside from one questionable tackle, never put a foot wrong, and Stones may have saved Manchester City’s season. He had two outstanding clearances off the line after Ederson had been beaten. It is quite the change of pace from the gorgeous attacking football.