DONE AND DUSTED? LIVERPOOL TO CONTINUE TITLE RACE AFTER LANDMARK HOME WIN
A 3-1 win over title rivals Manchester City prior to the international break saw the Reds move eight points clear at the top of the table, above both Chelsea and Leicester City and nine points above a fourth placed Manchester City. The Anfield outfit have responded well to domestic heartache last season and look on course to end a 30-year wait for a league title come May. There is however still a lot of scepticism as Liverpool lost a seven – point lead in the second part of last season under Jürgen Klopp, and also lost a seemingly unassailable lead five years ago while being coached by Brendan Rodgers, the current Leicester City manager.
Figure 1: Gerrard and Suarez in May 2014 after a 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace
There have been many teams over the years who have been unable to carry their their good form in the first part of the season into the second half,one of the most notable being the Newcastle United team of 1995/1996 season where a 12 – point lead was lost in the remaining 15 games of the season, losing uncontrollably while the then Manchester United team, under Sir Alex Ferguson, won a remarkable 13 of their last 15 games to win the title. Another example was in the 2011/2012 season where Manchester United lost an eight – point lead, only to lose to Manchester City on the final match day of the season on goal difference. The winning goal that year was scored by City’s then jersey #16, Sergio Aguero.
In the last game week, Liverpool faced Manchester City at Anfield and to say there was a lot of controversy in that game is an understatement. Regardless of later assurances to the media — “it was not sarcastic” — there was no doubting Pep Guardiola’s irritation toward the referee, Michael Oliver after their 3-1 loss to Liverpool.
Figure 2: Pep Guardiola gesturing to a Match official during the 3-1 loss to Liverpool at Anfield
City were not awarded what appeared to be a penalty just before Liverpool raced up the other end and scored after the ball struck the hand of Trent Alexander – Arnold just five minutes into the game in Liverpool’s box. It was deemed by the officials not to be deliberate and was overlooked, much to the dismay of the Manchester city faithful. But City midfielder Bernardo Silva had already helped the ball on with his hand, appearing to be in contravention of the new laws of the game against the attacker. With play continuing, Liverpool launched a counterattack that saw Sadio Mane charge down the left flank from inside his own half. A cross into the penalty area was cleared by Ilkay Gündogan directly to Fabinho who struck powerfully and surprisingly from distance in the sixth minute past Claudio Bravo, who was filling in for the injured Ederson.
Figure 3: Fabinho (left) and Mane (right) celebrating after Fabinho’s fabulous goal
City’s makeshift defense was breached again in the 13th minute, again from a rapid move down the left. When Andrew Robertson was set up by fellow fullback Alexander-Arnold to send a cross into the penalty area, Mohamed Salah got ahead of Fernandinho to head past Bravo. “Trent’s obviously done an unbelievable diagonal and I’ve just had a bit of space,” Robertson said after the match, “I’ve just seen Bobby (Firmino) and Mo (Salah) running into good spaces. I knew if I could put it in there, then one of them would hopefully get on the end of it. I’m delighted for Mo to get his head on it and put it in.”
Figure 4: Mohammed Salah celebrating after his header sent Liverpool two goals up
But far from being demoralized, City made the rest of the half uncomfortable for Liverpool. Left back Angelino, a stand – out player, on only his second Premier League start, saw a shot deflect off the post. Sergio Aguero also dragged a shot wide in a stadium where he has not scored now in eight appearances – a shocking stat for someone as prolific. He was unable to break that jinx, missing shots he would ordinarily dispatch with ease. Any prospect of a comeback appeared to be extinguished six minutes into the second half when City was picked apart from another cross. Mane got on the end of Jordan Henderson’s delivery from the right, heading in at the back post.
On a frustrating night for City, Silva pulled one back in the 78th minute with a low strike and surged a fight for a potential comeback that failed to materialise.
Pep Guardiola speaking to BBC Sport: “Congratulations to Liverpool, they scored three, we got one but I’m so proud of my team, few teams can come here and play the way that we did. We started incredibly well, we showed incredible bravery, they are the champions of Europe and it is the most difficult stadium in the world. They had two shots and it was two goals. It’s not easy after being two goals down to react the way we reacted. It was one of the best performances I have ever seen from my team. That’s what we needed and hopefully we can continue to make the steps we need.”
On Liverpool’s first goal: “Ask Mike Riley and his people please.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, speaking to BBC Sport: “They were good. Oh they were good and we had to defend with all we had but we scored incredible goals. “It was so tough to play, the intensity of the game was so clear. It was all worth it, really great. They pass the ball from outside, Sterling. How good did we defend him until then? Because you saw what happens when we don’t defend him anymore. “The boys were completely focused and concentrated. It was so good. It is the only way we can beat City, maybe other teams can do it a different way but this is the only way we can beat them.”
Figure 5: The premier league table as it stands after 12 gameweeks
The Premier League resumes this weekend after the international break, with champions Manchester City trailing leaders Liverpool by nine points. There are still 26 games left to play and Pep Guardiola’s side hope to reignite their title challenge against Chelsea on Saturday after the Blues pulled ahead of City in the league table with an impressive run of six consecutive victories. Jurgen Klopp’s men remain undefeated and face a tough trip to Selhurst Park to battle Crystal Palace. Leicester City face Brighton while Manchester United hit the road to play Sheffield United. The Blades are one of the form teams in the division and are fifth. Elsewhere, Arsenal are without a league victory in their last four, and they welcome struggling Southampton to north London.
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