A pulsating encounter between England’s best two teams gave us everything we expected and more. At the end, it was Manchester City who celebrated, recording an all-important 2-1 victory.
Manchester City starting lineup: Ederson, Danilo Silva, John Stones, Vincent Kompany, Aymeric Laporte, Fernandinho, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero
Liverpool starting lineup: Alisson Becker, Andrew Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino
It took 18 minutes for the first real chance of the game to appear and it was a huge one. A fabulous one-two pass between Salah and Firmino in the middle of the pitch gave the Egyptian some breathing room. He exploited it quickly by finding Sadio Mane, who had his shot ricochet off the inside of the post. As John Stones tried to clear the ball, he hit his goalkeeper Ederson. The ball flew backwards towards goal and Stones somehow managed to clear it just before it crossed the line completely. Replays later showed that it actually didn’t clear the line by a single millimeter. Mane had another good opportunity seconds later and then Dejan Lovren was booked for a rough challenge on Sergio Aguero, earning himself the game’s first yellow card.
Both teams were enthusiastic and energetic, cancelling each other out at every part of the pitch. The match was tense and intensive, but chances weren’t being created. Then, Sergio Aguero woke up and blasted a thunderbolt from a nearly impossible angle to beat Alisson and give Manchester City a 1-0 advantage. Dejan Lovren definitely could’ve done better, as he left too much space with Aguero so close to the goal, but that doesn’t take away from the Argentinian’s fantastic strike.
37 – Most goals in Premier League matches between 'big six' clubs since the start of the 2011-12 season:
37 Sergio Aguero
21 Harry Kane
20 Wayne Rooney
18 Robin van Persie
17 Eden Hazard
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 3, 2019
That was it for the first half, but based on what we saw in it, we were in for a real battle in the second.
The lead gave City wings. Knowing they had the advantage, they could afford to simply play their game, something they’ve excelled doing for almost two years now. In the 57th minute, James Milner was replaced by Fabinho in what was the contest’s first substitution. After an Alexander-Arnold attempt from the edge of the box and an Ederson mistake which nearly led to an equalizer (didn’t thanks to Kompany), Liverpool tied the score in the 64th minute through Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian was the recipient of an excellent first-touch pass by Robertson, who received an equally magnificent one from Trent Alexander-Arnold before that. Full back to full back and all Firmino was left to do was tap the ball in with his head to make it 1-1.
And weirdest celebration of the season goes to… Jurgen Klopp.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 3, 2019
Immediately after the goal, Guardiola replaced David Silva with Ilkay Gundogan. In the 72nd minute, Manchester City were back in front. Liverpool were playing a high line and their failed offside trap opened a tactical gap. Raheem Sterling received a pass in The Reds’ half and he found a streaking Leroy Sane. The German international didn’t hesitate, set himself up and fired a low shot that clanked off the post and into the net.
FT: Man City 2-1 Liverpool
Leroy Sane's excellent low finish sees Man City close the gap on leaders Liverpool to four points.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 3, 2019
The flow of the game was unbelievable – a clash of true titans and without a doubt the best two teams in English football. Sadio Mane made way for Xherdan Shaqiri in the 77th minute. After Alisson Becker made a fantastic save on a Sergio Aguero breakthrough, Ederson returned the favor on the other side with a crucial save on Mohamed Salah’s shot. Kyle Walker, Nicolas Otamendi and Daniel Sturridge were the next three players to be introduced to the pitch, as the visiting league leaders were getting ready for one final push.
In the 90th minute, two consecutive mistakes from the worst player on the pitch today Dejan Lovren gave Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling two great chances to seal the win. The first one was saved by Alisson, while the second one went flying over the bar. Several cleared long balls and five minutes of stoppage time later, it was all over. It took a gargantuan effort, but The Citizens got the job done, handing Liverpool their first PL defeat of the season and closing the gap at the top of the table to four points.