Football can be a game of minute differences. Whether it is a shot that was a whisker away or a goalie’s fingertips that come agonizingly close to diverting a goal-bound shot. Such minute measurements more often than not become a defining factor in the result. The same was at display last night when a goal-line clearance allowed Manchester City to register a 2-1 win over Liverpool. Exactly as we predicted.
Liverpool had entered the match with a seven-point lead over Manchester City, who stood third. A win would have helped the league leaders extend the gap to 10 points. Manchester City’s win, however, means that the defending champions are now just four points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side. It also ended the ‘Invincibles’ dreams that Dejan Lovren was having.
The Cityzens started the game off on a positive note, keeping the larger share of possession. Still, it was Liverpool that came up with the first major chance of the match, and what a chance it was.
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane combined well to create the opportunity. The Senegalese outmuscled John Stones and beat a rushing Ederson. The shot, however, hit the left post and came out. Stones rushed to clear it, but miscommunication with the keeper resulted in his clearance being deflected back towards goal by Ederson. With a leap of faith, Stones got his foot onto the ball and cleared it out of danger. The goal decision system showed that had the ball traveled a centimeter more, the score line would have read Manchester City 0-1 Liverpool.
In the 40th minute, Manchester City made the Reds pay for that missed opportunity. Sergio Aguero scored his seventh goal against Liverpool in as many home games against the club. The Argentine received Bernardo Silva’s cross from the left and set himself up at the near post with an exquisite touch, leaving Lovren out in the cold. Aguero then blasted the ball in from close range with Alisson Becker having no chance of saving it.
Liverpool came out all guns blazing in the second half, looking for the equalizer. Klopp’s men got their goal in the 64th minute through Roberto Firmino, who now has four goals in his last two games. Trent Alexander-Arnold sent a lofted ball into the box. Danilo was unable to head it out and Andrew Robertson sent in a peach of one-touch pass for Firmino, who headed it in.
Liverpool’s jubilation, however, lasted only for seven minutes. Raheem Sterling set up Leroy Sane in a scoring position with a great through ball. The German found the net from a tight angle, with some help from Alisson’s right post, to give Manchester City a well-deserved lead.
The hosts had another chance to extend their lead but Alisson stopped a strong shot from Bernardo Silva. Sterling got the rebound but he fluffed it wide.
Despite the missed chance, Pep Guardiola’s side was able to take the three points and cut the deficit. Where Manchester City were the side under pressure before the match started, the roles have now reversed. A four-point lead is not too much and considering Manchester City’s quality, it won’t be surprising if they pip Liverpool for the top spot.