6 talking points as Man City and Liverpool play out title decider thriller
Manchester City ensured that a fourth Premier League title in five seasons remains in their own hands having played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Etihad against Liverpool
Manchester City remain at the front of what is a remarkable Premier League title race after a 2-2 draw at home against Liverpool.
Touted as one of the most highly-anticipated games in Premier League history, the quality on the pitch did not disappoint. English football has rarely, if ever, seen two teams boast so much talent in a clash that had so much at stake.
Having led since December and at one point enjoying a 14-point advantage over the Reds, Manchester City knew there was no room for error with Liverpool now just a point behind them before kick-off. Things exploded into life early on as Kevin De Bruyne put City in front with a deflected effort that cannoned in off the post.
The hosts’ lead lasted less than 10 minutes after Diogo Jota’s strike squirmed under Ederson in a goal that the Brazilian shot-stopper will not want to see again in a hurry. Luckily for him, he was bailed out by his fellow countryman Gabriel Jesus, who restored City’s side lead in the 37th minute.
Less than 60 seconds of the second half had been played when Sadio Mane scored Liverpool’s second equaliser of the game having latched onto Mohamed Salah’s perfectly-weighted through ball.
Given the respective run-ins of both from this point onwards, the second 2-2 draw between these two this season undeniably suits City. Mirror Football has taken a look at six key talking points from the dramatic affair.
A rapid start
HAVE YOUR SAY! Who will be lifting the title in May? Comment below
Few teams have stunned Liverpool into silence the way City did in the opening exchanges of this clash.
From the very first whistle the hosts played with the kind of intensity we more commonly associate with Liverpool, Guardiola’s side undeniably aided by the electric atmosphere inside the Etihad filled to the brim with anticipation.
De Bruyne’s fifth minute goal only helped raise the volume inside the ground, but it was quickly lowered when Jota levelled the scoring from close range.
The Portugal international hit a tame effort that Ederson failed to deal with, ensuring any chance of a clean sheet for either side was out of the question within the opening 15 minutes.
City could have actually opened the scoring minutes before De Bruyne’s effort, but former Reds forward Raheem Sterling somehow managed to fluff his lines from no more than seven yards out and hit his strike straight at the onrushing Alisson.
Title Race: Advantage Man City
Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)
So ruthlessly efficient, Guardiola has created a machine that even Liverpool struggled to handle.
Having started the game at break-neck speed and getting their reward with De Bruyne’s strike – not even Jota’s equaliser could thwart the momentum of a home side who now look nailed on to retain their Premier League crown.
It was a similar story in terms of Jesus’s second being cancelled out by Mane.
Liverpool made them work for their point at times, but City look every inch the league winners they take a step closer to a stunning fourth title in five seasons.
Pep’s show of faith in Jesus
Many times this season Guardiola has opted against playing a recognised striker in any of his various, tactically advanced and complex systems.
Yet on the biggest afternoon of them all, the City boss entrusted Brazilian international Jesus to lead the line against a full-strength Liverpool backline.
His faith was duly repaid as the 25-year-old gave his opponents plenty to think about early on before getting his reward in the 37th minute.
Jesus was well-aware of his surroundings and made sure to keep himself on side as Joao Cancelo whipped in an inviting cross that evaded everyone in a red shirt, before the forward delivered a deft finish above the head of his international teammate between the sticks.
He could have had another just after the hour when he bullied Andy Robertson in an aerial duel, only to see his eventual goal-bound effort blocked.
City’s cultured, patient approach met its match in the form of Liverpool’s brutal attacking style that just did not let up all game.
Most notably in the second half having been buoyed by the momentum of Mane’s equaliser, Klopp’s side began to find pockets down City’s left flank.
At times, their forward-thinking approach was actually to their detriment and leaving them vulnerable to counter-attacks from their hosts – but it also gave City so much to think about it while trying to find a winner of their own.
The introduction of Diaz hardly helped Guardiola’s men as the Colombian provided the Reds with some much-needed fresh legs.
Despite the result, Liverpool’s on-pitch effort handed their title rivals a reminder – if they needed one, that they will not stop fighting until the very end.
Ederson’s close call
It was a moment that perhaps summarised City’s eccentric shot-stopper best, calmness personified while just about everyone else had their hearts momentarily stop in disbelief.
Ederson received a run of the mill pass back to him and having already taken one touch he saw the ball roll perhaps quicker than he anticipated towards his own goal line.
Instead of doing what many would do – panic, he simply slowly meandered after the ball – allowing it to get frankly ridiculously close to edging over the line before deciding to intervene.
To add further pressure into the mix, he did all of this while being chased down by Jota who was desperate to get any kind of touch on the ball to force it home.
Despite hitting the ground running since touching down on Merseyside soil in January, Luis Diaz was forced to start his first visit to Manchester on the bench.
The Colombian has arguably been Liverpool’s best player since his arrival and many expected him to give the City defence one of their sternest tests from the off but his manager had other ideas.
It was a similar story for the hosts, as Guardiola decided to bench both in-form Riyad Mahrez and £100million man Jack Grealish. With that in mind, neither side were weakened as a result of those on the bench.
It is a testament to the quality of both that though it took up plenty of the pre-match discourse – during the first half-hour, few were left questioning whether a Grealish or a Diaz was required to unlock the other’s defence.
69 minutes had passed before Diaz – the game’s first substitution was eventually introduced to proceedings in place of Jota. Mahrez eventually followed in the 74th.
The most expensive British footballer of all time was handed the last eight minutes of his side’s biggest game of the season when Grealish came on for Jesus in the 82nd.