MAN CITY 2, LIVERPOOL 2
It didn’t disappoint as what had been described as a potential Premier League title decider lived up to expectations and the considerable pre-match hype.
But after a pulsating clash of the top two ended in stalemate, there are likely to be further twists and turns before either Manchester City or Liverpool are crowned champions.
City, who remain one point clear at the top, will be disappointed as they created the clearer chances and with more of a cutting edge could have won by some distance.
They twice held the lead through goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus, but Liverpool fought back each time and showed great resilience, even though City ended their run of 10 straight league victories.
And City extended their unbeaten league run to five games against Liverpool with the result identical to the one at Anfield earlier in the season.
It was also the first time this season City had failed to win having scored first in a league game.Embed from Getty Images
City manager Pep Guardiola could not fault his side’s performances, but admitted they had chances to win the game.
He said: “We performed incredibly well. We didn’t win, but that’s football.
“I told the players after the game to keep their heads up and how well they had done, and how proud I was.
“The game was good for us, their fans, the dignity of the Premier League and the world.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp explained nothing changed after this game.
He said: “If we had won, we would have been two points up.
“We have to be as near as perfect to win seven games to beat them. It’s insane as it might not be enough if they win all their games as well.
“We are where we want to be, close to an incredible team.
“It was like two heavyweight boxers. If you put your hands down, you get a slap in the face. You have to get up again and regain control.”
De Bruyne said: “It was hard. To be fair I think we played excellent. The way we played was very good and we should score more. It is what it is. It was a great game.
“I think it should [be more before half-time] but we were still winning. The way the second half started is the disappointment. I think we played great and created enough chances to win the game.”
On the opportunity to win the game in the dying seconds, De Bruyne added: “It’s a great chance. Riyad (Mahrez) chose to chip and if it goes in it’s a wonder goal.
“Today we played very well, I think we had the upper hand. This is the way we need to play the rest of the season.”
And on who benefits more, De Bruyne continued: “It’s similar. I know people said whoever wins gets the title. But it’s too hard, the schedule is too tough for both teams to win every game, but we will try.”
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said: “It was intense, which we knew it would be. There are positives to take, but mixed emotions. Getting a draw at the Etihad Stadium under normal circumstances isn’t a bad result, but we wanted to come here and win the game to put the last games in our hands, unfortunately we couldn’t do that.
“But we came from behind twice and showed great character, staying in the game. That is important; if they slip up, we have to be ready to pounce,
“We didn’t settle into the game until they scored and that is disappointing. But we showed great resilience to come back, play football, get in pockets and hurt them. That is where [Jota’s] goal comes from. We could have done that more, but we’ve found a way to keep going within the game and not lose. In football you never know what is going to happen.
City made three changes from the side that beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter finals.
Kyle Walker came back into the back four with Nathan Ake dropping out.
Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden both started with Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan dropping to the bench.
Liverpool were as expected. Diogo Jota came into the forward line in one of three changes from the team that beat Benfica in the Champions League. Luis Diaz dropped out.
At the back, Joel Matip started ahead of Ibrahima Konate and in midfield Jordan Henderson replaced Naby Keita.
City could have taken the lead before they went ahead in the fifth minute.
Jesus, making his first start since January 1, sent over a low cross from the right but Raheem Sterling, completely free in front of goal, was denied by a brilliant block by Alisson Becker.
But in their next attack, City took the lead from a quickly taken free kick when De Bruyne, after a weaving run, saw his shot from the edge of the box, deflect off Matip and find the net from the inside of the upright, his 13th of the season and his sixth in the last six games.
Liverpool silenced the jubilant home support when they equalised in the 13th minute with both full backs featuring prominently in the move.
Andrew Robertson’s cross from the left found Trent Alexander Arnold who cut the ball back from the right, his 12th assist of the season, for Jota to sweep home a low shot from 10 yards for his 21st goal of the campaign.
There was a let off for Ederson after he failed to control Kyle Walker’s back pass and hacked the back off the line as Jota was ready to apply the finishing touch.
De Bruyne and Joao Cancelo both fired narrowly wide before City regained the lead in the 37th minute when Jesus stole in unmarked at the far post to half volley Cancelo’s cross into the roof of the net from six yards.
It was Jesus’ seventh goal of the season but first in 16 league appearances, the last time he found the net being against Chelsea in September.
And a good omen was City have never lost a league game in which Jesus has scored – 42 wins and two draws.
City might have added a third goal on the stroke of half time when Aymeric Laporte latched on to De Bruyne’s free kick from the left, but Alisson turned the ball on to the upright, a vital stop as a two-goal deficit would have been difficult to recover from.
It was the first time this season that Liverpool had trailed at half time in a league game.
And the costliness of those missed chances was underlined when Liverpool made it 2-2 48 seconds after the restart.
Mohamed Salah provided the assist with a diagonal pass from the right to release Mane who slotted a shot low past Ederson from 10 yards.
It was a 30th birthday goal, his 16th of the season and his eighth against City.
Liverpool were suddenly in the ascendancy and City firmly on the back foot as Salah set up Jota who forced a decent save from Ederson.
City thought they had taken the lead for a third time midway through the second half. It was an excellent finish from Sterling, but a VAR check ruled the forward had strayed offside.
Liverpool had a chance to take the lead for the first time when Salah’s goalbound shot took a big deflection off Laporte as it flew narrowly wide, but referee Anthony Taylor gave a goal kick to the bewilderment of the visitors.
Jesus had a chance to score again but rifled an angled shot into the side netting.
City made their first change with 15 minutes left as Sterling made way for Mahrez, soon followed by a second, Grealish for Jesus.
Mahrez had two great chances in the dying stages to win the game for City.
First his free kick from 30 plus yards clipped the outside of the upright and then in the fourth and final minute of added time his chip, following a counterattack, was narrowly over with Alisson out of his goal.