Manchester City 1 Liverpool 1 – De Bruyne the surprise villain as title rivals battle to stalemate
After all, the two sides are the only two realistic contenders for the English Premier League title this season (sorry, Tottenham Hotspur fans. Oh wait, I’m not), and are pretty much evenly matched in terms of the quality of their squads.
What was shocking, however, was that it was Kevin De Bruyne, of all players, who ended up the villain of the day. Ever so often the reliable hero for City, the 29-year-old missed a penalty late in the first-half that would have given his side the lead and potentially all three points. It was akin to Superman catching a train that had gone off the rails, but then dropping it because he suddenly got cramps in his arms from forgetting to stretch.
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Line-ups: Jurgen Klopp rewards the in-form Diogo Jota with yet another start, but it doesn’t come at the expense of Roberto Firmino. Instead, Klopp sacrifices one of his midfielders – in this case, Curtis Jones/Naby Keita – so as to field the most Fabulous Four in Liverpool since The Beatles.
As for Pep Guardiola, he surprisingly decides to drop Riyad Mahrez, who fails to even make the bench. There’s no mention of an injury for the Algerian, so there might be something more to his absence than meets the eye. There’s good news for City fans, though – Gabriel Jesus is deemed fit enough to start up front after recovering from a thigh injury, so for the first time in a long while, Guardiola’s men will be playing with a fit recognised striker up front.
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11th minute: PENALTY, LIVERPOOL! Mane goes down in the box under minimal contact
What a start for Liverpool. Sadio Mane drives into the box from the left and falls under the challenge of City full-back Kyle Walker. As someone who has Mane in my abysmally-performing Fantasy Premier League team, I’m delighted at the prospect of Mane earning me some much-needed points. As a neutral, however, it’s quite clear from the replays that the Senegalese bought the spot-kick with a clever bit of gamesmanship, as there was minimal contact between him and Walker. VAR doesn’t overturn the referee’s decision to award a penalty, so Mo Salah steps up to take the penalty…
12th minute: GOAL! Salah makes no mistake from the spot
…and confidently dispatches it with aplomb. Ederson dived the right way, but there is just too much power in the Egyptian’s shot. But come on, it’s Salah – no one really expected him to miss, did they?
25th minute: Selfish Sterling sees shot saved
City try to conjure up a response after going behind and gets a golden opportunity to do so when De Bruyne sets Sterling free on the left. The England international chooses to shoot from a tight angle instead of squaring it to an unmarked Jesus, and Alisson is able to make the save. It’s a huge chance that goes begging, and it’s all because Sterling tried to do things on his own instead of believing in Jesus. O ye of little faith!
31st minute: GOAL! Jesus draws City level as Liverpool’s defence goes missing
And we are back on level terms! The home side works the ball down the right before Walker finds De Bruyne in acres of space at the edge of the six-yard box. The Belgian has time to look up and plays a pass to Jesus, who twists Trent Alexander-Arnold (TAA) like a wet towel before firing the ball past Alisson. Sterling’s looking quite the fool now, eh?
41st minute: PENALTY! Gomez penalised for a handball
Just 10 minutes after equalising, City get a fantastic chance to take the lead after Joe Gomez is somewhat harshly penalised for a handball in the box. After all, replays show that the England defender was trying to get his hand out of the way of De Bruyne’s cross. But, given that EPL referees have been awarding penalties for handball for three pence and a ha’penny this season, it’s no surprise that Gomez has been punished.
42nd minute: PENALTY MISSED! De Bruyne sends his spot-kick wide!
De Bruyne misses the penalty! He sends Alisson the wrong way, but also manages to send the ball just wide off the post. A wasted opportunity for City, who might come to rue their failure to take their chances.
44th minute: Ederson saves from TAA
And City very nearly pays for their profligacy within two minutes! Mane holds the ball up well before feeding it to Salah at the edge of the area, who slips in an onrushing TAA on the right. The full-back, in acres of space, takes a touch before firing it at goal, but Ederson manages to stop the shot. The Brazilian goalkeeper, however, spills the ball like a regular Jordan Pickford, but manages to recover in the nick of time and secures the loose ball before Jota can pounce. So, while the two teams have had their chances to take the lead, they both head into the break level at 1-1, with all to play for in the second half.
50th minute: Ederson makes a double save from Salah and Jota
The Reds begin the second half on the front foot and immediately test Ederson within five minutes of the restart. The City shot-stopper first comes out to scramble Salah’s deflected shot away before Firmino can get onto it. Jota gets the rebound, but his scuffed shot is comfortably saved by Ederson.
55th minute: An unmarked Jesus heads wide from Cancelo’s cross
City respond to Liverpool’s bright start by crafting out a goalscoring opportunity of their own. Cancelo receives the ball on the left and cuts infield before sending a delightful cross into the box for Jesus, who runs off his marker far too easily. But, with just Alisson to beat, the 23-year-old somehow fails to hit the target. I’m sure there’s a joke there about Jesus and crosses, but I’m not about to open that can of worms. Anyway, if how both teams have started after the break is anything to go by, then we’re certainly in for an exciting second half!
56th – 90th minute: Zzzzzz
I stand corrected. The remainder of the second half is marked by niggly fouls and uninspired possession from both sides, who eventually settle for a 1-1 draw. It’s almost as if the two teams don’t care about making it interesting for their fans from across the Atlantic who have to stay up past their bedtime just to catch them in action.
But, if there’s any consolation for the Liverpool and City fans in Singapore (seriously, are there ANY Man City fans in Singapore? Get in touch with us if you’re one) who endured the snooze fest in the second half, they can at least rest easy knowing they did not wake up in the middle of the night just to watch their team lose 3-0 to Aston Villa.
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