Manchester City pulled off a magnificent victory over leaders Liverpool to end the reds unbeaten league run and cut the gap to just four points in the race for the title. A first half opener from Sergio Aguero was cancelled out by Roberto Firmino in the second half, but a strike from Leroy Sane eight minutes later proved the decisive goal as Liverpool’s unbeaten run finally came to an end.
It was a little bit of poetic justice for the blues, who saw their own unbeaten run end at Anfield almost a year ago. Back then, the blues were still 15 points clear after that defeat on their way to the title, but with the gap only being four points this time around, the result blows the title race wide open. The blues needed the result more than Liverpool, as the ghosts of back to back defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester were put to rest by beating Southampton on Sunday. But tonight’s match felt a little like the 2012 derby, a match that City had to win to stand a chance of claiming their first Premier League title. And, just like that evening in Manchester, the blues put in a shift worthy of potential champions.
City began by playing their usual pressing game, trying to force Liverpool into errors and the leaders were clearly rattled by the blues approach. Neither side had a shot at goal in the opening 18 minutes, but the first talking point arrived just a minute later. Sadio Mane’s shot bounced off the post and the clearance rebounded of Ederson and almost over the line. John Stones cleared just in time and goal line technology showed that the whole of the ball had not crossed the line. City had escaped by a sliver of leather.
The game came to live and moments later, Dejan Lovren was lucky to remain on the pitch has his deliberate hacking down of Sergio Aguero only resulted in a yellow card from referee Anthony Taylor. The blues had a chance on 28 minutes to take the lead as Fernandinho’s ball behind the Liverpool defence found Raheem Sterling. Silva’s touch wasn’t the best and and his hurried shot was blocked by Van Dijk.
Liverpool were incensed minutes later when Vincent Kompany’s challenge on Salah only resulted in a yellow card, with the reds asking why it wasn’t a red, and maybe it would have been if Taylor had sent Lovren off for his earlier challenge. It was reckless from Kompany and may prove to be another deciding factor in this season’s title race.
City continued with their impressive workrate and they were duly rewarded five minutes before the break. Sergio Aguero hammered home the 250th goal of his career in some style, controlling Bernardo Silva’s chip, before hammering a left foot shot into the roof of the net to send three quarters of the Etihad into delirium. It was the strikers seventh goal in seven home matches against the reds and, as it stood, Liverpool were looking at their first league defeat and their lead being cut to just four points as the blues went in 1-0 up at half time.
No changes at half time from either side, but the visitors started the better, holding onto possession but not really doing much with it. The tempo was slow, which suited City and Liverpool would have to do some pressing to get back into the game, which meant the blues could hit them on the break. Seven minutes into the second half, City had a penalty appeal turned down as Sterling went to ground under a challenge from Andrew Robertson, but referee Taylor ignored the appeals.
City were looking comfortable and had restricted Liverpool to just one shot on target all game. That changed on 64 minutes when Liverpool levelled the match. Andrew Robertson was left unmarked and his volley across goal was headed home by Firmino. The goal seemed to revitalise the visitors, but they still struggled to get another shot on target, and they were made to pay for not producing the chances, and it was a former red who helped punish them.
Raheem Sterling, who has so often been barracked and abused by Liverpool fans, collected a ball out of defence and set up Leroy Sane, whose low shot hit both posts before nestling in the back of the Liverpool goal. Blues fans again celebrated and a first defeat for the visitors again looked a very real possibility, and the faithful were watching from the stands, hoping and praying City wouldn’t concede again.
With ten minutes to go, Liverpool almost scrambled an equaliser but the blues managed to clear their lines. Two minutes later, City almost wrapped up the win as Aguero attempted to round Alisson in the Liverpool goal, but the keeper somehow recovered and made the save. Another two minutes and Salah’s shot is parried away by Ederson as City aimed to seal the win and Liverpool tried to prevent it.
90 minutes on the clock and blues fans had to endure another five. In the first minute, the blues had another chance to seal the win as Bernardo Silva’s shot was saved and Sterling hit the rebound just wide. With the clock ticking down, the blues hele Liverpool firmly at bay and hung on to claim a vital victory in the title race.
Final Score: Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
Attendance: 54, 511