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Liverpool 1-2 Manchester City: Cityzens hands Reds first Premier League defeat

A tentative, tactical affair broke wide open in the second half, with Manchester City notching a 2-1 victory at home to narrow Liverpool’s lead atop the Premier League table.

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Goals

Agüero 39′ (B. Silva)

Firmino 64′ (Robertson)

Sané 74′ (Sterling)

First half

Klopp deferred to his big-game midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Georginio Wijnaldum following Saturday’s 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal.

Making way were Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri, with the remainder of the squad staying intact.

The hosts were the far more energetic side in the early exchanges, forcing a number of loose touches and nervous moments from Liverpool.

But the Reds grew in stature, and arguably should have had the opener on 17 minutes after some beautiful build-up work and some incredible last-ditch defending.

Mohamed Salah played a one-two with Roberto Firmino to cut through the City midfield before sliding a ball in for Sadio Mané. The Senegalese hit his first-time effort across goal, beating Ederson before clattering back off the right post.

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In the ensuing scramble, John Stones walloped a clearing attempt straight off his own goalkeeper’s face, with ball arching back over his head toward the City net. Stones did brilliantly to recover, outpacing Salah and making a half-volley clearance that was 1.12 centimeters from crossing the line (courtesy of NBC Sports).

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Mané had another chance moments later, but his volley from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross was straight at Ederson, who corralled easily.

At the other end, Virgil van Dijk made a vital intervention on City’s first real chance, stepping up to block a David Silva effort inside the box after Raheem Sterling found space down the right.

On the half hour mark, Liverpool nearly got in through an errant pass from Stones — Salah nicked a first touch ahead of a sliding Vincent Kompany, but the Belgian came in with his studs high and was shown yellow.

The two sides continued to share possession before City found a late breakthrough thanks to Sergio Agüero, who added to his impressive goalscoring record against Liverpool at the Etihad.

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Van Dijk knocked the Argentine striker to the floor while going for a headed clearance — while City regrouped, Agüero remained down in the box. As the ball worked its way to Bernardo Silva on the left side of the box, the Liverpool defense seemed to lose track of Agüero, who quickly nicked in ahead of Dejan Lovren to cushion Silva’s cross before firing a left-footed effort high into the net past Alisson from an acute angle.

The goal gave the reigning champions a massive boost heading into the half, and forced Klopp to reconsider his half time team talk.

Second half

City had the better of the early exchanges after the interval, but again couldn’t get anything to materialize.

Anthony Taylor waved away an early penalty shout after Sterling went down in the box under pressure from Andrew Robertson.

The Reds had their first sight of goal at the other end, with Alexander-Arnold’s reaching half-volley flying well wide of Ederson’s left post.

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Klopp made his first change on 56 minutes, bringing on Fabinho to replace Milner.

Moments later, Danilo flashed a left-footed shot wide from distance after finding space just outside the Liverpool box.

Some indecision from Ederson nearly gifted Liverpool an equalizer after flapping at a set piece delivery, but his defense was on hand to clear Firmino’s goalward attempt off the line once again.

Minutes later, the Reds found an equalizer through some stunning, expansive play between their two full-backs.

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Alexander-Arnold picked up the ball on the right flank and sold Leroy Sané with a fake to cut onto his left foot. He then lofted an inch-perfect diagonal to an onrushing Robertson, who headed back across goal for Firmino to nod home.

Pep Guardiola responded by bringing on Ilkay Gündogan in place of David Silva, who had been largely anonymous by his standards.

Liverpool appeared to have newfound life, but Sané responded for the hosts with a moment of individual brilliance. Sterling picked out the German on his favored left foot as he carried into the box. The German had plenty left to do, but he fired a low, driven shot through the legs of Alexander-Arnold and off both posts to put the hosts back in the lead.

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Klopp turned to his bench once again for a spark, bringing on Xherdan Shaqiri for Mané with just under a quarter hour to play.

Alisson kept the hosts from doubling their lead following a late break, palming away Agüero’s attempt to round him and slot home.

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Ederson returned the favor at the other end, getting his fingertips to a Salah shot after the Reds broke from midfield.

Stones was at the ready with more heroics from the ensuing corner, clearing Wijnaldum’s effort off the goal line after a brilliant delivery from Shaqiri.

Daniel Sturridge then joined the fray in the dying minutes, replacing Wijnaldum. Kyle Walker and Nicolás Otamendi came on to replace Aymeric Laporte and Vincent Kompany for the hosts.

Alisson bailed out Lovren in stoppage time after a loose touch played Bernardo Silva clean in — Sterling’s follow-up attempt flew narrowly wide, gifting the Reds a lifeline.

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It was ultimately not enough, as the City defense stood tall under a barrage of long balls in the final minutes.

With the defeat, Liverpool remain atop the Premier League table but see their lead reduced to four points.

Liverpool

Alisson, Robertson, van Dijk, Lovren, Alexander-Arnold, Milner (Fabinho 56′), Henderson, Wijnaldum (Sturridge 86′), Mané (Shaqiri 77′), Firmino, Salah

Subs: Mignolet, Moreno, Keita, Lallana

Manchester City

Ederson, Laporte (Walker 86′), Kompany (Otamendi 87′), Stones, Danilo, D. Silva (Gündogan 65′), Fernandinho, B. Silva, Sané, Agüero, Sterling

Subs: Muric, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Jesus

 

Alex Mansfield
Co-owner, editor-in-chief of LFC Transfer Room. @el_mansfield on Twitter. Love a good, civilized debate!

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