Liverpool – Man City: The latest match-up of dueling dynasties saw Manchester City hammer error-prone Liverpool in a 4-1 win at Anfield on Sunday.
City put together this four-star showing without Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, with Ilkay Gundogan making amends for an early penalty miss with two goals. Phil Foden had a goal and an assist while Raheem Sterling also feasted off of perhaps the worst performance of Alisson Becker’s career, certainly of his tenure at Liverpool.
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City now has a 10-point lead on Liverpool, a 5-point lead on Manchester United, and a 7-point advantage on Leicester City with a match-in-hand on all three
This Liverpool side is injury-hit and reeling at home but was arguably the better bet to score in the first 45 minutes aside from Gundogan’s penalty miss. The Reds actually won the possession battle and shots were even at 8-8, but City put four of its five shots on target in the goal.
Three things we learned from Liverpool – Man City
1. Trent Alexander-Arnold was the first hour’s story: Yes, of course, there were meaningful incidents that did not involve the Liverpool right back, but how Alexander-Arnold responded to a Pep Guardiola game plan aimed at him was the game. Time and time again Ruben Dias or Rodri got the ball in the center of the park and looked to find Raheem Sterling on the left flank, not unlike City’s work during Leroy Sane’s best days. With Alexander-Arnold’s attacking an amazing threat going forward but his defending somewhat-limited, this was a thrill to watch play out.
Alexander-Arnold nearly won the first half of the battle before he was dusted by Sterling for what became Gundogan’s missed penalty. He could’ve easily had an assist to Sadio Mane, who will be furious at his finishing but not his threat. The Senegalese star provided a lot of danger to keep City off-kilter and carried it into the early second half.
How targeted was Alexander-Arnold? Here are his averages for the season in certain categories compared to Sunday versus City. Of course playing City will raise how many times you have to defend, but these are marked differences.
Interceptions per PL match this season: 1.2
Interceptions v City: 3
Tackles per PL match this season: 1.3
Tackles v City: 5
Clearances per PL match this season: 0.9
Clearances v City: 3
Duels per PL match this season: 2.6 of 5.2 (48%)
Duels v City: 7 of 14 (50%)
Passes per PL match this season: 55 of 62
Passes v City: 43 of 54
So while many are saying that Alexander-Arnold had a rough game, perhaps that misses the point just a bit. He has long been a subpar but improving right back, to the extent that some see him as a future midfielder, more of a Andrea Pirlo than a Dani Alves.
City just pushed the ball his way and the mistakes were more glaring, the back three then tilted right long enough to leave Andy Robertson struggling at the other end. Bad day for the backs.
2. City too much for non-traditional back line as Alisson melts down: There will be talked about whether new signing Ozan Kabak should’ve slotted next to Fabinho or Jordan Henderson at the back, and we’re not sure whether it’s undeserved. Yes, Kabak is 20 and has just arrived from another league, but he was playing for an often under-siege Schalke side and is facing Bayern that different than Man City? He’s also a natural center back who is good with the ball and in the air.
That said, Alisson’s day turned into a nightmare pretty much from the moment he made a fine save on Foden that Gundogan put in the goal for 1-0. The Liverpool star keeper passed the ball directly to City twice in plays that wound up in his goal within 10 touches (each, or maybe even total).
3. More City penalty madness versus Liverpool: Kevin De Bruyne missed a 42nd-minute penalty in the 1-1 draw between the rivals at the Etihad Stadium, though he had made one in City’s July rout of the recently-minted champions. And Riyad Mahrez missed a penalty in a scoreless draw at Anfield in Oct. 2018. So in some ways it fails to surprise when Gundogan mailed his late first-half effort over the bar.
Liverpool’s Salah then won a penalty off of Ruben Dias, the Egyptian taking arm contact from the Portuguese and making sure it was known he was fouled with a dip into the deep end of pool. Had to be done, and Salah didn’t miss his penalty.
Man of the Match: Phil Foden.
It’s Foden, Sterling, or Gundogan and the last name’s out for his penalty miss.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 7, 2021
Liverpool – Man City recap
Thiago Alcantara took an early yellow card for a nasty challenge on Ilkay Gundogan, the rivalry renewed between both City and Liverpool but also one-time Der Klassiker foes.
Liverpool had the better danger early, but both teams made stellar defensive players as Rodri broke up a Mohamed Salah dribble and Trent Alexander-Arnold made two stops on the Liverpool right flank.
The best chance of the first half was an Alexander-Arnold cross to the doorstep that Sadio Mane headed over the goal under pressure from Joao Cancelo.
Liverpool was in control of the game when it shifted on a Raheem Sterling dribble into the box. The English winger cut past Fabinho and making sure he caught the Brazlian’s clumsy position, winning a penalty only to see Ilkay Gundogan mail his effort over the bar.
Mane won a free kick off Joao Cancelo about a yard outside the 18 about two minutes before halftime. Thiago’s effort was flicked back over the goal by a leaping Ruben Dias in the middle of the City wall. Ederson saved Mane’s header off the ensuing corner kick.
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Gundogan got his goal, though, as Sterling drove past Alexander-Arnold and set up Phil Foden’s shot at Alisson Becker. The keeper’s save sat up for Gundogan to blast home.
Alexander-Arnold found Curtis Jones with a beautiful diagonal ball in the 58th, and the midfielder just missed the far post with a low shot.
Salah made the most of hand-to-hand combat with Dias to win a penalty that he scored to make it 1-1.
City had a goal ruled offside off a free kick but got a second from Gundogan on the doorstep, Alisson’s awful clearance going right to Foden for a drive down the right and deflected cutback that the German slammed into the goal.