That Brexit midfield. That Dejan Lovren. Why? Just why?
Liverpool finished second-best in all departments as they lost 2-1 to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, and saw their lead at the top of the Premier League cut to four points, with seventeen games left to play. Leroy Sane scored the winner for City after Sergio Aguero’s superb opener was cancelled out by Roberto Firmino.
Liverpool can have no complaints, and from the off, City looked like the side with more appetite. There must be questions asked of the way Jurgen Klopp set his side up as well, given that the Reds had lost five away games in a row previously while starting a midfield of Wijnaldum, Henderson and Milner.
City made all the early running, but didn’t muster a single attempt of any sort on goal, when the Reds had the first big chance of the game.
Lovely interplay between Firmino and Mo Salah in midfield allowed the Egyptian to weigh a perfect through-ball to Sadio Mané, but his shot hit the far post before cannoning out to John Stones, whose clearance smacked a retreating Ederson and went perilously close to goal before Stones made the clearance off the line.
1.12 centimeters of the ball didn’t cross the line. Those margins. 1.12cm separated Liverpool from a 1-0 lead, which City then took, after some lovely play down the left between David Silva and Bernardo Silva.
A ball into the box saw Aguero dart in front of Lovren and absolutely smash the ball past Alisson at his near-post, and into the roof of the net. No way you can blame the goalkeeper for letting that one in although it was at his near post.
The Reds might have made something out of a few set-pieces late in the first half, but on the balance of play, a 1-0 lead at half-time was just reward for City’s hunger and desire.
Klopp didn’t waste time after the break to switch to a 4-2-3-1, putting Fabinho on for Milner and Liverpool began to have more of a foothold in the game, and eventually got the equaliser.
Danilo got sucked in by the flight of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross, and Andy Robertson was on hand at the far-post, to delicately square it for Firmino to slot a diving header into an empty net.
Liverpool didn’t make that foothold count though, as City got back to probing with their possession, and finally got the winner with a superb move that had the Liverpool rearguard all over the place.
Lovren was sucked in to deal with Sterling on the ball, Alexander-Arnold was shadowing Aguero’s run, and that meant oceans of space for the ball to be slotted to Sane. By the time Alexander-Arnold moved across and attempted a block, Sane shot past Alisson and the ball went in off the far post.
Liverpool almost hit back straightaway through Mo Salah, after he was played in by Henderson. The Egyptian, got the better of Stones, and his left-footed shot was bound for the far-post before Ederson got a hand on it.
City could well have added a couple more in the dying minutes, but their profligacy let Lovren off the hook. The Croatian lost his head and some of the things he was doing on the pitch really did look Sunday-league at times. Both Aguero and Sterling should really have scored with chances that they had. At least, the Argentine made Alisson work for that one-on-one save, Sterling’s shot flew wide with the goal at his mercy.
The Reds probed in the final few minutes, and City weren’t at all assured in defence. But in the end, they held on and handed the Reds their first defeat of the season.
To sum it up in a line – wrong tactics, wrong approach, wrong team selection and the less hungrier side on the pitch.
Liverpool can have no complaints about that result.