Liverpool go into the international break third in the Premier League table after a 1-1 draw with Manchester City at The Etihad.
Mohamed Salah’s early penalty was cancelled out by Gabriel Jesus’ equalizer and the Reds — who had the fortune of Kevin de Bruyne missing from the spot, albeit from an extremely harshly awarded penalty — held on for a more than merited result, which, on another day, could have been much more.
After Diogo Jota’s Champions League hat-trick away to Atalanta midweek, many speculated whether Jurgen Klopp would stick with the Portuguese attacker or pick his trusted lieutenant, Roberto Firmino. The German selected both and lined his team up in a 4222 shape, with Sadio Mané and Jota playing behind the advanced pair of Firmino and Salah. Joel Matip also returned from injury, to help somewhat calm the storm of centre half injuries at Anfield.
The Reds line up was brave and they started the game with an attacking verve. An early ball over the top from Trent Alexander Arnold sent Firmino in behind and — with Ederson rushing out of his goal — a better touch from the Brazilian would have seen him go round his compatriot. The opportunity was squandered, though, and City escaped.
The visitors were funneling a lot of their attacks to their left-hand side, targeting Kyle Walker. Georginio Wijnaldum and Andrew Robertson were adventurous with their ball carrying and Mané was always an outlet in behind. The trio combined well to open the scoring. A give and go between Robertson and Mané saw the Senegalese winger left one versus one with Walker in the box. The England international gormlessly lunged in on the number and referee Craig Pawson had no hesitation pointing to the spot.
Salah stepped up and confidently placed the penalty past Ederson to give Liverpool a merited lead.
City looked shell-shocked by the concession of the goal and the game lulled after a hectic opening 20 minutes. The host’s main target for passes was Kevin De Bruyne and it was through the Belgian that Guardiola’s side had their first shot, some 25 minutes into the game.
For once the imperious Wijnaldum was dispossessed and de Bruyne’s arching cross — the kind he so regularly utilises — found Raheem Sterling at the back post. The England internationals effort at Alisson was weak, but it was the first time City had threatened in the game and it gave them encouragement.
Looking more cohesive after an uninspired start, City — with de Bruyne central to their hopes and their hub of creative thrust — started to turn the screw and they had an equalizer just after the half-hour mark. Falling asleep from a quick free-kick, Liverpool failed to pick up Walker on the right flank. The full-back then fed a pass to De Bruyne and the Belgian’s low pass found Jesus in the box. With a brilliantly instinctive turn, the Brazilian forward evaded the challenge of Joe Gomez before stabbing an excellent low shot past his countryman, Alisson, in Liverpool’s goal.
The goal saw City — whose approach was, first and foremost, to stymie Liverpool — push on with more confidence and they were awarded a penalty when de Bruyne’s cross hit Gomez’ arm. After consulting the pitchside monitor, referee Pawson awarded his second penalty of the game. De Bruyne, though, pulled it horribly wide and — from a Reds perspective — justice was served as the decision was hugely harsh.
A pulsating half ended with the teams level.
The home team started the second half better and had an opportunity when Jesus — following Joao Cancelo’s dinked pass — headed wide. They had another chance when — after Liverpool down the field in an almost identical counter — Ederson’s long pass initiated a break that ended up with Walker’s cross being caught by Alisson.
The ineffective Firmino was replaced by Xherdan Shaqiri and the Reds — whose frequent counters were ruined by poor final passes and decisions in the decisive moments — chased a victory.
Alexander Arnold, who appeared to twinge his hamstring in a foot race with Sterling, was withdrawn to be replaced by James Milner, but City — who failed to manufacture an opening of note in the final 20 minutes — could not capitalize and the game ended in a draw.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Gomez, Matip, Robertson; Jota, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mané; Salah, Firmino.
Replacements: Milner for Alexander Arnold, Shaqiri for Firmino.
Referee: Craig Pawson.