In the first Premier League game back from the international break, Liverpool visited Manchester City for an early kick-off for what would eventually be a game to forget from the Reds. The Citizens were without a win against Liverpool for the past five league fixtures, but they got their revenge today in a big way. Pep Guardiola’s men put in a superb display against the visitors, absolutely humiliating them following a controversial Sadio Mane red card.
First half: REds Killed off
For what would eventually be a one-way demolition job, both sides looked evenly matched in a tentative start to the game. Pep Guardiola’s men were (as always) happy to take their time searching for an opening, electing to patiently pass around the pitch instead of trying to force a hole in the opposition’s defense — an approach Jurgen Klopp’s men take kindly to.
However, Guardiola opted for an uncharacteristically deep defensive strategy whenever the Reds pushed forward. City’s wing-backs would tuck back to make a back five deep into their own box, while Fernandinho sat closely just in front of them to limit the space in between the lines that Liverpool’s fearsome attack love to play in. Despite still finding some freedom down the right flank through Mohamed Salah, City’s defensive game plan was massively effective.
The same could not be said of Liverpool’s defense as they were cut open in the 24th minute for the first goal of the match. Sergio Aguero was the goal scorer, making it his 6th goal in 6 games against the Reds as well as becoming the top non-European goal scorer in Premier league history (124). A poor cleared header by Jordan Henderson was brilliantly won by Fernandinho who laid it off for Kevin De Bruyne at the edge of the centre circle. The Belgian playmaker quickly played a wonderful through ball for Aguero who cleverly peeled off Ragnar Klavan to free himself for a one on one with the keeper. The Argentinian talisman rounded the helpless Simon Mignolet and cooly finished off the move.
Liverpool nearly struck right back in the 29th minute when Sadio Mane played in a perfectly timed Mohamed Salah run behind the defense. Unfortunately for the traveling support, the Egyptian fluffed his lines with an easily saved weak shot at goal.
The away side’s woes would only crescendo from that point on as Liverpool’s Senegalese star would controversially see red in the 37th minute. Liverpool played a deep ball over and through City’s high line to set up a one-on-one contest between Mane and Ederson for the dropping ball. Eyes only on the ball, the Senegalese winger extended his leg dangerously high with hopes to pluck the ball out of the air and past Ederson for an easy goal. Mane’s boot, instead, found the head of City’s goalkeeper and sent the Brazilian out on the ground. Referee Jon Moss found no choice but to send Liverpool’s star man off and to the showers. The Brazilian keeper unfortunately had to be stretchered off the pitch, but Claudio Bravo would take his place and — to the delight of City fans — would not have much to do.
Eight minutes of stoppage time was added on due to Mane’s MMA collision with Ederson; the home side would profit from the extended stoppage as the Citizens grabbed a second goal in the 5th extra minute through a Gabriel Jesus header. De Bruyne played the role of orchestrator yet again as he would turn young Trent Alexander Arnold inside-out down the left before playing a beautiful inswinging cross for a wide open Jesus to node home.
second half: City exhibition
Manchester City entered the second half changing to a four at the back, moving Danilo into the midfield alongside Fernandinho. Liverpool made one change at the break, switching Salah out for the newly-signed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A strange substitution given that Salah was Liverpool’s main threat in the first half, but perhaps Klopp already had damage limitation on his mind as they switched to a 5-3-1 with Emre Can dropping back to centre back.
Whatever it was that Klopp had in mind was not translated onto the pitch as it looked as if his players never left the dressing room in the second half.
City pegged the Reds back into their own half early in the second half and profited from their early pressure as Jesus would grab his second goal of the match in the 53rd minute. Similar to their first goal, a Liverpool clearance was taken well out of the air and laid off to a nearby midfielder in the centre circle (Fernandinho in this case), who then played a killer ball through the defense and on for Aguero. However, this time the Argentinian had a partner in Jesus beside him. Instead of grabbing a brace of his own, Aguero unselfishly elected to pass the chance off across for the young Brazilian to score.
The match was no longer a contest following the goal as Klopp’s men looked resigned to defeat, while Guardiola’s men looked untouchable and eager to put on a show. The Sky Blues certainly did not disappoint as they passed circles around the Reds, humiliating them and creating chances at will.
The home side piled on Liverpool’s misery late in the match with a brace from substitute Leroy Sane. The young German grabbed his first in the 77th minute after a quick passing move down the left with debutant Benjamin Mendy freed him up for a close, first-time shot at goal past Mignolet. His second was scored in sensational fashion after picking the ball up from outside the box coming off the right hand side and unleashing a gorgeous curling strike into the top corner to complete the Citizens’ five goal rout against the Reds.
Guardiola’s men were utterly unstoppable in the second half, playing with Klopp’s 10 men like a little boy plays with his toys. Yes, Liverpool were a man down. Yes, it was arguably their most important attacker. But that should be no excuse for such a poor performance, as the Reds were simply abysmal. However, take nothing away from City’s performance as they were outstanding and this will certainly ring alarm bells around the league to their rivals.
main talking point
Mane Red Card: In a game where Manchester City were able to both keep a clean sheet and put five goals past a strong Liverpool side, one red card will likely be the main point of discussion among pundits when analyzing this game for two reasons. Firstly, Liverpool looked hopeless and dreadful without their Senegalese star. The sending off seemed to suck all life out of the away side and they never even remotely looked like challenging the Sky Blues following the red. Secondly, was it or was it not a deserved red card? A debate already sweeping social media with some thinking he only ever had eyes for the controlling the ball, while others thinking that does not matter as he basically karate kicked a player in the face.
Possession: Manchester City: 66% Liverpool: 34%
Shots: Manchester City: 13 Liverpool: 7
Shots on target: Manchester City: 10 Liverpool: 3
Corners: Manchester City: 8 Liverpool: 3
Fouls: Manchester City: 10 Liverpool: 9
Manchester City (3-5-2): Ederson 6 (Bravo 6); Danilo 7.5, Stones 7.5, Otamendi 7 (Mangala 6.5); Walker 7.5, De Bruyne 9, Fernandinho 9, Silva 8, Mendy; Aguero 9, Jesus 9 (Sane 9)
Liverpool (4-3-3): Mignolet 5; Alexander-Arnold 4, Matip 4.5, Klavan 4, Moreno 4.5; Henderson 5, Wijnaldum 4.5 (Milner 5), Can 4; Salah 6.5 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 4.5), Firmino 5 (Solanke 5), Mane 4.5