MANCHESTER — As the final whistle blew at the Etihad Stadium, the roars of delight into the crisp, clear night sky proved that new life had been breathed into the Premier League title race.
The 90 minutes of action between Manchester City and Liverpool was of the highest quality and was one of the most gripping encounters in recent memory.
The atmosphere crackled throughout and it felt like a cup final. Pep Guardiola said afterwards that “it was a final for us because lose and it was almost over. Now it is tight again.” His team showed incredible hunger, something they haven’t had week in, week out this season, and outworked Liverpool to secure victory.
The pace was incredible. Players set new records for distance covered this season. Managers clashed with officials on the sidelines. The tension was palpable. So much was on the line, especially for City, that every miscue, every chance, was jeered and cheered in equal measure.
All of this happened after a gruelling set of festive fixtures over the past two weeks. It was utterly gladiatorial and was unquestionably the Premier League at its very best.
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Manchester City beat Liverpool 2-1 to handle the latter their first defeat of the league season and with 17 games remaining City are now just four points behind the current leaders.
Game on for the rest of the season. And this game lived up to the hype.
These two teams are clearly the best two teams in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are master tacticians who have created winning machines. Guardiola and Klopp lavished praised on each other before this game and both teams went out to win, and could have, in an intense, beautiful battle.
“We reduce the gap, still four points is enough points to be calm but it is a good moment to congratulate and say thank you to these incredible players,” Guardiola said afterwards. “Today they show how good they are, they play against an incredible team. It was a good spectacle and both teams play to win.”
Something had to give. In the end, it was the posts at one of end the pitch which blew this title race open.
Sadio Mane‘s first half shot hit the post and was hacked off the line by John Stones. Leroy Sane’s shot hit the other post late on and pinged into the other corner of the net to hand City victory.
“Pretty intense, eh?” smiled Klopp. “It had wild moments, both teams obviously have a lot of respect for each other and yeah, we played better games but we took the intensity today and I thought at the end City had more situations where they controlled the game but we had these moments as well. Not as long or often as City, but it is an away game so that is absolutely okay. At the end you can say the post in or post out can make a massive difference.”
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This wondrously gripping game had it all.
Vincent Kompany could well have seen red in the first half for his lunging tackle on Mohamed Salah. City took the lead after a moment of brilliance from Sergio Aguero. We had Stones’ amazing clearance with a slither of the ball not over the line. Fernandinho crunching into tackles. Bernardo Silva covering every blade of grass. Amazing saves and poor decisions from both Ederson and Alisson. Late goalmouth scrambles as Liverpool pushed for a killer equalizer. Rapid City counters as they tried to seal the win.
It was the Premier League at is breathtaking, dizzying best and the best thing about a Man City win was this: we will now get to see both teams involved in massive games between now and May knowing any slip-up will render their previous efforts pointless.
The title race is well and truly on and we are all the big winners from Man City’s deserved, encapsulating win.