MAN CITY 1, LIVERPOOL 1
Seven games into the Premier League campaign and Manchester City, remarkably, remain in the bottom half of the table following their failure to beat Liverpool.
It was a draw which on reflection Liverpool will be more content with as they remain five points clear of City though their arch-rivals have played one less game.
But it was a lost opportunity for Liverpool who would have gone top and eight points clear of City which would have been a massive statement.
As it stands, City have their lowest points total after seven league games since 2008-09 in what has been a challenging start to their campaign.
In a fascinating clash of last season’s top two, Liverpool took the lead through a Mohamed Salah penalty.
Gabriel Jesus equalised with an exquisite finish and City were left to lament a penalty miss from Kevin De Bruyne which would have given them victory.
It was not a classic of some of their meetings of recent years but, as BBC 5Live football correspondent John Murray observed.
“You can’t expect fillet steak all the time, at some point you’re going to run into corned beef hash,” he said in his own inimitable style.Embed from Getty Images
City manager Pep Guardiola had no complaints, saying: “A tight game, they started well, we conceded a goal and conceded a penalty like at Leicester. It was tight, in the second half we had more clear chances, but a draw is a fair result.
“It is not easy to defend against Liverpool, normally they have three in attack and now four, they ran in behind and you cannot stay there, and they play in between the players.
“It is not easy to play but we adjusted a bit and had more courage to stay high. We made a good goal and unfortunately we missed a penalty. In games or opponents like Liverpool, if you miss a penalty is it more difficult.
“Three games, three goals for Gabriel Jesus, he did not train much so he did really good.
“When you cannot win in 80-85 minutes, you cannot lose it. When you play against a contender like Liverpool, you have to try and win but you cannot lose. We know each other quite well.”
Liverpool manage Jurgen Klopp said: “It was an interesting game, a lot of tactical stuff on the pitch. Both teams played on an incredible energy level to close the other team down and use the few opportunities. I thought it was a top, top, top game.
“The plan is always to start fast, stay fast and finish fast but that is not always possible as City is a top team.
“I think it is the game with the lowest number of chances for City so far when we have played them. Clear cut chances they didn’t have many and that is a proper compliment for the boys.
“Super football game to be honest. Two top teams ready for a massive fight – energy levels of both teams incredible. I’m really happy – City’s lowest number of chances against us.”
Jesus said: “The result is not good for us. We know that because we are at home and have to try to win our games here, but it was a tough game.
“They are the champions, but we cannot drop these points.
“It was a top game. We know they work hard and have a lot of amazing players. We had a chance to win the game.
“Both teams wanted to win. Sometimes when it’s like this you have to control the ball more. We have to keep playing like this and try to convert the chances.”
Guardiola made two changes to the side that started their 1-0 win at Sheffield United in their last Premier League match.
Gabriel Jesus was handed his second league start of the season following a goalscoring return from injury in the midweek win against Olympiakos.
Ilkay Gundogan also comes into midfield as Bernardo Silva drops to the bench and Riyad Mahrez misses out altogether.
Klopp has made a couple of tweaks to the side that beat West Ham 2-1 at Anfield last weekend.
Joel Matip, who has missed the last two games through injury is welcomed back in defence replacing Nathaniel Phillips and Diogo Jota comes in for Curtis Jones.
That means Jota, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane all start after making pundits suggested it would be a choice between Jota and Firmino to line up alongside the two other players.
Liverpool, playing 4-2-4 when attacking, kicked off on the front foot and created two dangerous breaks in the early exchanges.
And they were rewarded for their adventurous start when they won a 11th minute penalty after Mane was caught by Kyle Walker.
After a VAR check, the spot kick stood and Salah found the net from 12 yards with a fiercely struck low shot, his first goal against the so-called top-six teams in 13 attempts.
It was the Egyptian’s 10th goal of the season in only 13 appearances.
City complained, however, as they were convinced Raheem Sterling was fouled at the other end before the break that led to the breakthrough.
It was not until the 25th minute that City created their first chance after Georginio Wijnaldum was caught in possession. Kevin De Bruyne set up Sterling but his effort was blocked by goalkeeper Allison with Joe Gomez completing the clearance.
City equalised shortly after the half hour when Kevin De Bruyne provided the assist as Jesus produced a delightful turn which put Trent Alezander-Arnold on his backside before he slotted hoe a low shot, his third goal in three appearances in an injury-disrupted start to the season
Suddenly the momentum was with City and moments later a drive from De Bruyne flashed just wide of the upright.
There was drama towards the end of the half when City won a penalty after Gomez handled De Bruyne’s cross.
Referee Craig Pawson initially waved play on but VAR official Paul Tierney alerted the official to have a look at the pitchside monitor with one camera shot incriminating the Liverpool central defender.
That was not the end of the drama, though, as De Bruyne sent Allison the wrong way but dragged his kick wide, only the second penalty miss of his career.
It was also the first penalty in the Premier League to miss the target since October 2018 when Mahrez blazed over for City at Anfield.
City had the first big chance of the second half in the 55th minute when Jesus stole in unmarked to meet Joao Cancelo’s cross but conspired to head wide from eight yards.
Bernardo Silva replaced Ferran Torres shortly after the hour, City’s first change.
City had most of the ball in the second half but were unable to create any clear-cut chances as Liverpool defended comfortably.