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Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City: 16 Conclusions

1) When Liverpool failed to win the Premier League title from such a commanding position last season, there were at least mitigating circumstances. It was the first such situation many players had found themselves in, made all the more decisive by the fact that they were against imperious defending champions. Failure to beat Manchester City in either of their two meetings also proved fatal. To come so close while balancing Champions League glory deserved commendation, not ridicule. There will be no such excuse this time. Liverpool will carry an eight-point lead into the depths of November, having won a quite ridiculous 131 points from their last 50 Premier League games. For reference, Tottenham and Everton have both dropped more – 22 – this season alone. Jurgen Klopp’s side have faced and beaten the teams currently second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth, and are unbeaten while everyone else has lost at least twice. Which is not to say the title race is run, just that Liverpool can suffer about three separate stitches over the next seven months while still retaining a healthy lead atop the table. They can afford imperfection while anyone who hopes to catch them must attain and maintain perfection in both the short and long-term. Momentum resides entirely on Merseyside, but it feels different this time. They will not cede it so easily, and no-one looks capable of wrestling it from their grasp as City did in January.   2) Perhaps the key is that they are not playing particularly well; there is still a sense that Liverpool have gears to shift through, levels to reach if and when necessary. City matched them and might have even bettered them for substantial periods at Anfield but were behind for 85 minutes and never got within two clear goals after the 13th. Their attitude and mental strength sets them apart. The difference between Liverpool and City in terms of playing quality is negligible, as this week’s countless tedious combined XIs have told us. The only discernible gap in calibre is in defence, and it is there that the biggest overall contrast is outlined: mental strength. City seem to have expended some of their resolve over the course of two incredible seasons, while Liverpool are only now testing the limits of what they can achieve. Letting the title slip from their hands last season could have broken this side and these players, but it has had the opposite effect. Liverpool have more depth and more durability because of what they have been through, not in spite of it.   3) That said, their start was actually characterised by a nervous energy. There was an Alisson miskick; Virgil van Dijk was beaten in the air just before Trent Alexander-Arnold’s handball; Dejan Lovren started. The visitors looked more confident and less overawed. The hosts completed just nine passes in the opening five minutes, three of which Alisson accounted for. Mo Salah and Georginio Wijnaldum did not have a single touch, while Kyle Walker and John Stones both had efforts on goal. Most telling was that City were playing their own game while Liverpool were struggling to assert themselves at home, with a five-point advantage, fewer injuries and a much longer rest and more preparation after their respective Champions League games. Pep Guardiola sought to fight fire with fire and Liverpool were anxiously fanning the flames.   4) Which is what made their response so impressive. Liverpool have weathered storms and emerged from the other side unscathed before, but to stroll out of a City typhoon with barely ruffled hair and a slightly untucked shirt is almost other-worldly. Against a side that drives opponents into submission, Liverpool forced a rope break then applied an unbreakable hold of their own. The mistake City made was to stop applying the pressure to appeal for handball against Alexander-Arnold, Bernardo Silva having handled it first. But while they protested, Liverpool profited. Sadio Mane led an attack down the left-hand side, his low cross was edged away by Ilkay Gundogan, and Fabinho revelled in the freedom of Merseyside to open the scoring. Claudio Bravo stood no chance – silly Gary Neville – but Gundogan and Rodri should have cut the shot off at the source. Liverpool’s mentality monsters withstood a barrage; City folded at the first semblance of pressure. It would become something of a theme.   5) Not that City failed to offer any sort of answer. They posed a particular threat from set-pieces, with Kevin de Bruyne’s dead-ball delivery the silver lining to his rare grey cloud of a performance. Raheem Sterling missed a presentable early header from a free-kick. Sergio Aguero failed to make any contact in a similar situation soon after. The two corners De Bruyne took in the first ten minutes both reached their target but the same could not be said for players he found. Liverpool had the height advantage, particularly in defence, yet struggled to deal with the danger, almost exacerbating it with such a high line. If Klopp is to pinpoint one area for improvement from such a galvanising win, it was established early on.   6) It is worth noting that City scoring from any of those chances might not have changed the complexion of the game all that much. It would have affected the approach of both managers and some of the players, but Angelino would have still been up against Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane and the isolated massacre would still have been televised. A minute after the Aguero chance, Liverpool doubled their lead. The nature of the goal was instant and crushing, so decisive in turning defence into attack that any other final result felt inconceivable after just a quarter of an hour. Within ten seconds of Alexander-Arnold’s sumptuous weaker-footed, 60-yard, inch-perfect switch of play, Salah was celebrating an excellent header, with Andy Robertson’s controlling touch and fantastic cross wedged in between. It was devastating in its application and accuracy from three absolute masters of their roles, a sensational goal that deserves more acclaim.   7) The sheer shock of that goal saw a whole eight minutes go by before the next shot: the longest such wait of a frantic first half, and second longest of the entire game. There were 30 efforts in total, compared to a combined 13 shots in last October’s goalless draw at Anfield. It was a breathless game without lulls – the lack of a break to check Salah’s goal, while justified, must have jarred with Sheffield United fans in particular – and no time...


Published By: Fottball 365 - 4 days ago

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