As the final whistle blew in Manchester on Sunday evening, the world of football rejoiced in a match which ended in a thrilling 1-1 draw. However, for Liverpool, this was a match which could have ended so differently and with a positive result, rather than a share of the spoils.
To travel to the away ground of a team which is third in the Premier League, having spent vast amounts of money on world class talent and come away with a point, is fantastic. To enter the Etihad Stadium and take on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, at their own game and slug it out with them in front of their own fans is a huge credit to Jurgen Klopp and his players. Liverpool more than held their own and that must be the positive to take from the match.
When playing Manchester City, you know you are going to be asked questions defensively and this is where Liverpool were expected to struggle in the match. In the first half, the Reds were on the back foot and Raheem Sterling was giving James Milner problems, as David Silva looked to dictate the game from midfield. Pressure began to mount as the first half went on and Klopp was pleased to hear Michael Oliver blow the whistle for half-time.
In the second half, Liverpool came out stronger and took the lead from the penalty spot through Milner. However, Klopp’s players could not take control of the game and Manchester City struck back through Sergio Aguero with 20 minutes left on the clock. There game entered a period where both teams had great chances to score goals and Adam Lallana was guilty of one of the worst misses this season, as he squandered an open goal. As the game reached the final few minutes, both teams looked tired and were seemingly happy to take a point from the match.
A point at Manchester City is a good result but there were other positives to take from the game. Emre Can had an excellent game in central midfield, showing strength and determination, winning the ball and getting the team on the front foot whenever possible. Georginio Wijlandum answered his critics who claim he cannot play away from home with a very assured display, using the ball and getting involved when the team were going forward. Hopefully, both players, Can especially, can bring this type of performance to every match which remains this season, including those against teams in the lower half of the table, when the live television cameras are not rolling.
If Liverpool are to break down the more stubborn teams towards the end of the season, Philippe Coutinho must improve. The Brazilian struggled in the first half of the match and his touch was poor. Klopp must have spoken to him at the interval, as he came out for the second half with a better performance but still nowhere near his best. Coutinho was withdrawn with 20 minutes left but hopefully, he can build on his second half display.
Liverpool have now played all the teams in the top six, home and away. The run-in looks good on paper but there are games, such as those at Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, which have the potential to cause problems. Let’s hope everyone comes back from the international fixtures fit, healthy and prepared for the run-in.