Manchester City and Liverpool played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday as Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp saw their teams go all-out in their pursuit of securing a top four finish in the Premier League.
[ RECAP: City, Liverpool draw ]
James Milner‘s penalty kick was canceled out by Sergio Aguero’s equalizer as both teams created numerous chances but somewhat canceled one another out.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Here’s what we learned from an intense, gripping battle in the rain in Manchester.
PK CALLS SHAPED THE GAME
Referee Michael Oliver will need a lie down after this game.
There were three big penalty calls which shaped the outcome of this match and Oliver got all three wrong. First, Georginio Wijnaldum went down under a challenge from Yaya Toure in the box and no penalty kick was given when it seemed like it should’ve been. Then at the other end a huge moment arrived as David Silva‘s cross found Raheem Sterling at the back post but James Milner slid in and made no contact with the ball. Again, Oliver should’ve awarded a penalty kick but he didn’t.
Then, at the start of the second when Oliver should’ve waved away a penalty kick call he awarded it. Gael Clichy slipped and then launched into a challenge on Roberto Firmino. Yes, it was a clumsy tackle but Clichy got the ball first. Milner stepped up to score the PK and put Liverpool ahead and perhaps Oliver got out of jail because City equalized and both managers will be fairly happy with the point.
That said, the way Guardiola was talking to Oliver and the other officials at the final whistle, it seemed like he was the unhappy manager. He had every right to react that way.
CLASSIC ENCOUNTER, STICKING TO PHILOSOPHIES
In the first half Pep Guardiola had a huge smile on his face as he embraced Jurgen Klopp on the sidelines. Respect.
Two of the greatest managers in the world right now have both found it tough going at times this season but there’s one thing we know about them both: they will die by their philosophies.
For better or worse they are stubborn and want their teams to play open, attacking soccer as they often neglect defense. That approach resulted in a humdinger of a game which ebbed and flowed back and forth as chances came and went and moments of brilliance in the final third were not finished off.
Two moments of magic encapsulated why Guardiola and Klopp must stick to what they know best.
First, Adam Lallana spurned a great chance as he launched a lung-bursting counter. He played the ball to Firmino, who passed to Wijnaldum who then lobbed the ball over City’s defense to Firmino and his clever flick with the outside of his boot had Lallana clean through six yards out. Lallana then missed the ball completely.
At the other end moments later Aguero and Sane combined with a wonderful backheel from the latter and then the loose ball fell to Kevin De Bruyne who hit the post.
It may not be perfect right now, especially in defense, but the longer Guardiola and Klopp stay with their respective teams the better they will get and the more pieces of the jigsaw they can put in place. In this day and age everyone wants to win now but both of these managers deserve extra time to get these projects fine-tuned and add the players they need
Finishing in the top four of the Premier League will allow them both to do that as the dangling carrot of the UEFA Champions League next season will help recruit world-class players. Maybe defenders will be a little scared to play for either of these teams though…
Yaya Toure was overrun in midfield and it was a plan which didn’t work out for City.
Guardiola played Fernandinho at right back and left Toure in midfield on his own to try and shut down Lallana, Wijnaldum and Emre Can on his own. With Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva just in front of him, those two aren’t known for their defensive abilities and as Ilkay Gundogan told Rebecca Lowe at half time in the NBC studio, Guardiola prefers KDB in a deeper role due to his ability to keep the ball.
When Fernando came on and De Bruyne was shifted out wide, City looked more balanced and able to cope with Liverpool’s attack.
We are in March and Guardiola still hasn’t got the balance of his team right. City have so many great attacking talents but they are still top-heavy.
Much has been made about the defensive mistakes from the likes of John Stones and Claudio Bravo this season but City need to get better protection for their defense, especially against the better teams who can hurt them.
For more on Man City v. Liverpool listen to the latest 2 Robbies podcast.