Liverpool win first battle of Britain
It was first blood to Liverpool in the battle of Britain as a rampant Reds team tore apart Manchester City in a blitzkrieg first half at Anfield. Pep Guardiola’s team were hammered by three goals to seal the first leg of the quarter-final Champions League clash.
Once again it was Mohamed Salah’s genius that was the difference between the two sides; he scored the opening goal from a Roberto Firmino assist in the twelfth minute and his overall play was causing problems for the Man City defence. Man City were visibly shell-shocked by the early goal and struggled to find their usual fluent rhythm, Liverpool harried and pressured, hoping to force a mistake.
In the twenty-first minute, Liverpool added to their lead when England sensation Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit a thunderous shot from way out of the box. The shot was struck so hard that it left Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson watching helplessly. This was Oxlade-Chamberlain’s second consecutive goal against Man City which he has scored in the same fashion.
Liverpool kept asking questions and in the thirty-first minute, Mo Salah again shocked the defence with a Kevin De Bruyne-style assist to find Mane who headed the killer punch to Pep Guardiola’s star-studded team.
The Manchester City team did not look like a threat against a re-energized Liverpool side that for a change looked defensively stable. Summer record signing Van Dijk continuously displayed the qualities that convinced Liverpool to pay so much for him and was a calming influence at the back.
Manchester City only managed seven shots with none of them on target. It’s understandable to miss a player like Sergio Aguero who is out injured but one player’s absence is hardly an excuse for this performance from City, at no point did they seem to look like a threat.
City’s striker Gabriel Jesus looked every inch of his 5ft 8-inch frame when he was between the giant defenders that Liverpool possesses. They easily cleared all aerial threats thrown in their way.
Much of the pre-match talk was about Liverpool having to resort to youth to bolster the defence and Liverpool’s best player on the pitch was none other than Trent Alexander Arnold. The nineteen-year-old is a home-grown star and had a whole stadium cheering him up as he made his presence felt in the right back position. Leroy Sané failed to find his season-long form and for almost the whole of the game, Arnold outplayed him.
Pep Guardiola has always played attacking football but for the first time, his line-up was rather cautious and he opted to defend. Raheem Sterling, who had a disappointing game at Anfield in Manchester City’s first Premier League loss of the season to Liverpool was dropped. That was probably a protective move by Pep, wanting to shield Sterling from the hostile reaction of his previous club.
Changing the style of play was perhaps their downfall as City looked uneasy with this tactical change and did not find the rhythm of play that has made them English champions-elect. Manchester City are an attacking machine, playing defensively seemed alien to them.
When passion goes too far
Liverpool promised City would receive a fiery welcome when they arrived at Anfield and so it proved with crowds of supporters lining the street for the arrival of the City team bus. However, passions got the better of some fans and the English sports back pages are full of pictures of fans throwing cans and rocks at the bus. A video is circulating on social media and online of the incident and it was something the club was quick to condemn.
Whether this tactic worked, only the Manchester City players will know but they face a massive challenge to overcome this three-goal deficit. Klopp seems to know something that no-one else does. He was as much a thorn in Pep’s side in the German Bundesliga as he is proving to be in the Premier League. Head-to-head Klopp has six wins, five draws and only one loss against Pep’s teams. So, history is on Liverpool’s side. But with City effectively having nothing to lose, it could be an exciting second leg.