Liverpool edged out Manchester City on New Year’s Eve to win 1-0 and keep pressure on Chelsea as they head into the second half of the Premier League season just six points behind the Blues.
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Georginio Wijnaldum‘s early header was the only goal of the game as Man City huffed and puffed in the second half but couldn’t break down a stubborn Liverpool defense and City are now 10 points behind league-leaders Chelsea.
Here’s what we learned from a tense game at Anfield.
CONTRASTING STYLES CLEAR
There’s plenty of mutual respect between Klopp and Guardiola about how their respective teams play the game.
But when it comes down to how their teams play, that could not be more different.
That was clear for all to see on Saturday as Liverpool came flying out of the traps, scored their goal and pinned City back for most of the opening 60 minutes. However, particularly in the second half, Guardiola’s side dominated possession and looked the more likely to score.
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City improved in the second half drastically because they stuck with their patient possession-first philosophy and because Liverpool tired and were unable to keep up their high-tempo approach. Both approaches are very different and both have their ups and downs.
Even though there were very few clear cut chances apart from Wijnaldum’s goal, it was in intriguing tactical battle as two teams challenging for the title are going about it in completely different ways. Of course, Klopp is eight months further along the line than Guardiola and that showed in this game but over the next two years these teams will challenge for the title.
Okay, we will cut both of these teams some slack but there’s no doubting that the number of turnovers in possession was abnormally high for both teams at Anfield on New Year’s Eve.
Part of that had to be fatigue as the busy festive season is in full flow with Liverpool playing twice in the past four days and City having one extra day of rest.
The other part of that was City still not being comfortable with what Guardiola is asking them to do on the ball, plus Liverpool’s high-press worked very well.
It’s safe to say neither manager will be totally satisfied with the performance but Klopp will certainly be happy with the three points as Liverpool has ground out wins in recent weeks.
CENTER BACKS SHINE FOR LIVERPOOL
One of the main reasons Liverpool is still in the title hunt with Chelsea is because they’ve shored things up at the back in recent weeks.
Klopp’s side have now kept three clean sheets in their last four games, as they’ve secured big 1-0 wins against Everton and Man City. Their two center back against City, Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan, were key to victory as they locked Sergio Ageuro down and did all of the simple things well.
Unlike City’s central defenders John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi who made mistakes with passes out of the back, Liverpool’s two bruising center halves cleared their lines and never truly let City get in behind.
The big Achilles heel for Liverpool was always going to be in defense as they’ve had so many issues with changing goalkeepers and not spending big money on defenders. If they can stay this solid in the big games, they have the players going forward to hurt and score goals against the PL’s best defenses.
As for City, oh what Guardiola would do to have his captain and defensive leader Vincent Kompany back fit and at the top of his game in central defense. Instead Kompany was in the stands with the City fans at Anfield as he watched his side go 10 points behind Chelsea.