Friday 20 October 2017

Mourinho the winner as City and Liverpool have to settle for point each after they fight out thrilling draw at Etihad

Man City 1 Liverpool 1

Manchester City’s John Stones slides in to tackle Liverpool’s Sadio Mane. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester City’s John Stones slides in to tackle Liverpool’s Sadio Mane. Photo: Getty Images

Jason Burt

Bonkers. Utterly, utterly and gloriously bonkers. And that was just the two manic managers on the touchline. Little wonder Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp collapsed into each other's arms at the final whistle.

This was as relentless, dramatic, astonishing and compelling as it comes. And somehow it ended just 1-1. Right result. Wrong scoreline. Four-four would have been a better reflection on what unfolded.

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (R) scores his sides first goal past Simon Mignolet of Liverpool. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (R) scores his sides first goal past Simon Mignolet of Liverpool. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

It was an encounter of such breathless, topsy-turvy commitment - full of thrills and spills - that the Man of the Match Adam Lallana also committed the miss of the season and James Milner, of all people, incurred the attention of the boo boys against his former club. It was certainly, definitely, not boring.

Quite where it leaves City and Liverpool remains to be seen, although the winner was probably across Manchester at United and Jose Mourinho, who will have curled his lip at the defending. There could have been a hockey score.

Exceptional

Neither team here felt like they could afford to lose, but both - to their credit - simply went for it and tried to win. The quality of that defending - the exceptional John Stones apart - was questionable, but when teams attack with such endeavour there is sometimes a price to play. If only, as Guardiola lamented, and Klopp could have concurred, they took their chances.

Klopp turned his back - as is his custom - as Milner waited to take the penalty that gave Liverpool the lead, but this was a match that you simply could not take your eyes off.

John Stones of Manchester City (L) tackles Sadio Mane of Liverpool (R). Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
John Stones of Manchester City (L) tackles Sadio Mane of Liverpool (R). Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

By converting that spot-kick, his seventh of the season, Milner also took the record for being unbeaten in a Premier League match in which he has scored (47), overtaking Darius Vassell.

Afterwards, Guardiola spoke of his pride - and City did bounce back after that draining Champions League exit to Monaco last midweek - while Klopp appeared less happy. He knows United can catch Liverpool with their games in hand. But if his side continues to play like this they will eat up points.

Where to start? Probably, with such a chaotic match, at the start and Yaya Toure, who went on to have a disappointing performance, slid in recklessly, boot up, using excessive force, catching Emre Can on the right shoulder and was only cautioned by referee Michael Oliver.

Then Sadio Mane was far too quick for Nicolas Otamendi as he sprinted on to an underhit back-pass and as the Liverpool forward pulled his foot back to shoot he was caught by the City defender and crumpled to the turf. Again no penalty.

Liverpool's Senegalese midfielder Sadio Mane (L) is held back by Manchester City's Spanish midfielder David Silva. Photo: Getty Images
Liverpool's Senegalese midfielder Sadio Mane (L) is held back by Manchester City's Spanish midfielder David Silva. Photo: Getty Images

And neither a penalty - or a red card - was given when, at the other end, Raheem Sterling hurtled forward to try and turn in David Silva's low cross only for Milner to dive in and prevent him, while Fernandinho side-footed the ball wastefully into the side-netting. He should have scored.

As, before that, should have Silva with a wonderful City counter-attack, with Sergio Aguero playing the ball infield to Sterling who found Leroy Sane. He eventually crossed low with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet pushing it out towards the penalty spot. Silva met it with a crisp half-volley - that flew narrowly over.

It carried on. Willy Caballero produced two fines saves - firstly, denying Roberto Firmino and then adjusting to tip over Lallana's fierce half-volley when the goalkeeper's punched clearance had only fallen to him. After that Stones reacted sharply to block Joel Matip's side-footed shot from inside the six-yard area.

Half-time arrived. And breathe. Then, into the second-half, they went for it again with Can picking out Firmino, in swathes of space inside the area, only for Gael Clichy to clatter into him. This time a penalty was given, despite City's lengthy protestations, and Milner calmly sent Caballero the wrong way.

What now? Stones almost immediately equalised, but headed wide from a corner before Liverpool could have ended it. Firstly, after a strong run, Philippe Coutinho, who otherwise is still struggling to find his best form after recovering from injury, released Firmino who was clear on goal, but was thwarted by Caballero with another fine save.

David Silva of Manchester City (L) puts pressure on Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool (R). Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
David Silva of Manchester City (L) puts pressure on Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool (R). Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

At that point Guardiola, crucially, changed it. He withdrew Toure, he pushed Kevin De Bruyne wide and moved Fernandinho into midfield and City improved. They also quickly scored, with those two players combining for De Bruyne to deliver a brilliant, curling cross that deceived Ragnar Klavan and allowed Aguero to sweep the ball into the net with a trademark finish.

It changed the mood. Suddenly City were on top and then almost ahead as Aguero powered into the area, stumbled, with the ball rebounding off Milner and running to De Bruyne, whose shot cannoned back off the post.

Both teams were at it. Both sensed each other's vulnerabilities and also had the overwhelming, commendable desire to win this. There was no attempt to close it down. It was twist not stick. Liverpool poured forward, with Lallana charging upfield and eventually Georginio Wijnaldum chipping the ball to Firmino. He teed up Lallana, in front of goal - who miscued completely. The mitigation? Lallana had run himself into the ground. But still, what a miss.

Would City capitalise? It seemed so. After Sterling had beaten Simon Mignolet to the ball it was scrambled clear for a corner and a deep cross, deep into injury-time, found Aguero. Everyone knew the rest… except, incredibly, the striker blazed his volley way over.

And the game ended.

"Nice game to watch, probably," Klopp later said. "But on the sideline really hard work." It looked like it. And was all the more entertaining for that also. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport