Sometimes a game plan drives the bus in big games and other times individual brilliance sways a result to winning side.
When it comes to Manchester City’s 4-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday it’s a little bit of both (to say nothing of some shocking errors from Reds star goalkeeper Alisson Becker).
Pep Guardiola’s game plan took the game to Liverpool’s flanks and challenged their unorthodox center backs Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, putting Man City in good positions time and again before the finally broke through in the second half.
And Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp noted Guardiola’s halftime adjustments to a slightly-more defensive system helped City take control of the game.
Then there’s Phil Foden.
Our Man of the Match, the 20-year-old Foden was a marvel with an assist to go with a rocket goal as he racked up three interceptions, two tackles, and one key pass as a pressing false nine.
Guardiola was oh-so-pleased.
“He’s had some difficulty in understanding what he has to do and places he has to move [but] right now he’s moving perfectly,” Guardiola said. “We cannot forget he’s 20, 21 years old with an incredible, huge margin to improve. The reason he plays as a winger is he has to get the rhythm to play in the middle. … The mentality, he’s always focused. He has the feeling he can always do something close to the box.
“We are lucky for our Manchester City fans, for our people to have a guy from the academy who loves Man City, grew up in our academy, grew up supporting, a ball boy and become a top footballer for us. We are lucky.”
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/QUfHqjxuAP
— Phil Foden (@PhilFoden) February 7, 2021
Foden thinks Anfield win “can only help us a lot”
Foden was buzzing after the win.
The former ball boy admits he could not have struck his goal any sweeter, and didn’t opt for coachspeak when asked whether winning at Anfield could change how City views their season.
For all of City’s dominance, having lost just once in its last seven matches versus Liverpool, the visitors had not won at Anfield since May 2003.
“When you beat the champions, everyone’s confidence goes sky high,” Foden said. “It can only help us a lot, winning here. We haven’t won here for a bit.”
The youngster wasn’t getting caught up in the moment’s meaning, though, turning his attention to the next outing as City is very much alive for four trophies.
“It gives us every chance to go on and win it but the job ain’t done,” Foden said. “We’ve still got a long way to go. We’ve gotta keep doing this, putting points on the table.”
Guardiola lifts veil, gushes about win at Anfield
Guardiola admitted he was buoyed by the win, perhaps one last burden lifted off City’s shoulders in their bid to go back to the PL trophy stand.
“The last champions, how strong they are… many emotions.” Guardiola said. “We missed the penalty first, like a routine against them. We started really, really well first 15-20 minutes. We struggled but when we conceded a goal, the reaction we had made the difference.
He later said:
“Today we break Manchester City streak of very many many years without a win here. Hopefully we can do this next time with people here.”
Obviously City has won in every house and claimed everything but the Champions League, and a win of that could inspire renewed talk of an unlikely quadruple.
City will play the League Cup final against Tottenham in April, and is off to Swansea City for a fifth-round FA Cup. match on Wednesday.
Borussia Monchengladbach is next in the Champions League’s Round of 16, and City now leads the Premier League field by five points with a match-in-hand on the next five teas.