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Football News: Manchester City v Liverpool - A Liverpool Perspective

Manchester City v Liverpool - A Liverpool Perspective
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Manchester City v Liverpool

 

That game was not good for my heart. I had a feeling before it kicked off Klopp would try something similar to what he actually did, as it was clear at the weekend that City were doing what Pep's teams always do at the end of the season, fading. I had said from the start of the season that all teams had to do was stay close to them in the early part of the season as they would fall off at the end when they run out of legs. Sadly no one did that in the Premier League, so that is gone to them, but crunch time in the Champions League is always the same for Pep.

They did start the game really well, were clearly fired up for revenge, and that stupid schoolboy error from van Dijk so early on gave them hope. Oddly, one of the stats sites I was looking at to check them from the game did not list that as an error leading to a goal, when it definitely was. And it nearly cost Liverpool badly. However they really did not do much else in the half, in terms of genuine chances created other than the disallowed goal. It was mostly long range efforts. They might well have scored one or two on another day, but a defensive unit sets out to try and restrict opponents to long range shots, so they did their job.

There were four things that stood out for me, other than the goals, as worth discussing. Firstly, Mane slipped into Otamendi, rather than tackled him and was unlucky to get his booking, but Ederson's reaction was a red card all day long. The ridiculous shoves on Mane, repeated shoves, have to be a red under the rules. He was clearly trying to provoke Mane into reacting and it was a terrible decision by an awful ref to merely book him. Weak refereeing as he just did not want to ruin the game and end it there, even though he must know it has to be a red going by the laws of the game.

Secondly their disallowed goal was another mistake by the ref, though I think he is being harshly judged for his error in this case. Sane was not offside because the ball came off Milner (though you could argue Milner did not deliberately play the ball in which case Sane would still be off, personally I think he did though) but the ref probably could not see that from where he is. The linesman was too busy making sure to look for offsides and cannot be expected to see who it came off, just that Sane was in an offside position when it was played. However, what on earth was the guy on the goal-line doing? In fact, what on earth do those guys ever do? Have they ever been of any use?

Pep's sending off is the next talking point. I can see why he is angry, but he has deliberately set out to antagonise the referee even before kick off, slagging him off very publicly in the media. Hard to have sympathy when he then sends you to the stands for flapping your gums again. Guardiola has shown some really significant moments of having a terrible attitude this season. His arrogance has been astonishing at times. This was another of those moments. I understand his anger, it was a bad decision, but there is no way he could have known that from where he was. So why not wait and have a look at half time, then use it to drive the players on? Instead he became a distraction, an excuse even, for the players to lose focus and direction in the second half.

Finally there has to be questions asked of the decision to book van Dijk for being kicked in the head, deliberately, by Sterling. It was a clear and nasty kick out which could have done a serious injury, yet somehow the referee saw fit to book van Dijk. The look on his face afterwards, when he had that 'worlds against me' look only to look over and spot Aguero was coming on for City at that moment. That was a priceless moment.

One more thing, the away fans were fantastic. Well done to all who travelled, though I did fear for my sanity at one point during the build up, as they were discussing the game and I could hear in the background: "we conquered all of Europe, we're never going to stop, from Paris down to Turkey, we've won the...." and so on. I thought the song had just got into my head completely until they did a quick scan round the ground, which showed the Liverpool section were already there belting out the song so loud it was constantly in the background of the TV coverage!

 

Klopp - he has definitely got in Pep's head. Guardiola is so wound up when facing Klopp he loses it and Klopp knows it. The strategy worked out perfectly, let them run themselves out in the first half then give them hell in the second. Once Salah scored their heads dropped and their play became disjointed and it was never in doubt from that moment. The whole City crowd just gave up.

 

Karius - was not his best performance. I think he was trying too hard as he was not relaxed enough with his kicking and kept pulling the kick to one side or the other. Understandable when you remember it is the first time he has played at City's home ground since he left there as a youngster. Overall he did not play badly, kept it calm, slowed the game down and followed his instructions well, it is just that his kicks were not as accurate as usual a lot of the time. He was put under a fair bit of pressure in the first half, so that did not help either.

 

Alexander-Arnold - up until he got his yellow card he was struggling badly and was being badly exposed by the City team doubling and tripling up down his flank. Somehow he seemed to improve once he got the card and played much better after that. Overall it was a decent enough performance in the end, despite the very poor start.

 

Lovren - potentially he was man of the match. Once again he took responsibility for everything, never stopped to complain about being fouled, never waited for someone else to come deal with things, just dealt with it and then got into place for the next attack. His blocks on long shots may well have been the difference. Lovren did what a defender should do when the team is under pressure, cleared his lines and gave everyone time to get back in position, though his passing stats must have been terrible because of it.

 

van Dijk - when he bothers he is an excellent defender, his head was on the end of a lot of the City corners, clearing them. The problem is that he is far too ready to throw his hands up and complain or just stroll around not putting in the effort. The City goals being a case in point. It was not just that he would rather complain than play, it was that he let it override common sense. When he realised he was not getting the free kick, there was Robertson in front of him to play the ball to or he could put the ball into touch to turn round and argue with the ref, if he really feels that was necessary.

However, what he did was the one thing you should never, ever do. You do not pump the ball aimlessly into the centre of the pitch, while you are miles out of position with no chance of anyone covering you. It was rank amateur schoolboy idiocy. He got away with it last night, but he has to learn the basics, play to the whistle and clear your lines or pick a pass, not throw a childish strop. Other than that he had a good game and was incredibly unlucky to get booked for being booted in the head by cash money $terling.

 

Robertson - was one of his headless chicken performances. Lots of running around but very little achieved other than a few sliced clearances and one cross to no one. His energy out there did make it difficult for them to really get any joy down his flank though.

 

Oxlade-Chamberlain - another of the contenders for man of the match. He was everywhere last night, breaking up play, getting forward to support attacks and he had a couple of shots too. Gave the defence a breather or two as well running with the ball. Excellent game.

 

Milner - that's a few games in a row now he has been excellent. You can always rely on him trying, but sometimes the quality is not there as he gets caught up in the moment and allows himself to stray out of position and get caught. The last few games he has not been doing that so much and he is a much better player for it. Odd to say it, but he ran too much at times, now he is running about a little less and the team is benefitting.

 

Wijnaldum - abysmal first half. Just shocking. The game completely passed him by. There were a number of times that either Milner or Oxlade-Chamberlain had to run past where he was to close down an opponent, while he just stood watching or picking his nails or what ever it was he was doing. It was only when they ran past him he reacted, like it woke him up and he suddenly realised he should have been closing down then. You could see the jolt in his movement as he thought 'oh bollox I should have done that'. That first half performance was one of the worst I have ever seen in a Liverpool shirt, it was like playing with ten men.

Second half he came out more positive, made a couple of runs with the ball, but he still does not do enough for my liking. The game was there for him to take by the scruff of the neck and really go and drive at City. They could not cope with him, but he soon settled back into just doing enough. It is maddening because he has so much more to his game than he uses.

 

Salah - what more can be said about Salah? He has been incredible all season long and shows no sign of stopping, even though he did not look 100% fit. His goal was brilliantly taken though, a beautiful finish to lift it in, when he could have been stood watching. Poacher's goal that was.

 

Mane - another of the man of the match contenders. He was lucky not to get booked early on, though extremely unlucky to get booked when he did pick up a yellow card. However he did extremely well not to react to Ederson's ridiculous attempts to rile him up and to ensure he never picked up another yellow. Brilliant game and the little nutmeg to get himself taken out by Fernandinho let Salah in to score. All game he was involved and kept pressing and protecting the defence brilliantly while still having enough to get forward and create havoc.

 

Firmino - the only 'disappointment' I can think of about his performance yesterday was that he had to look to slot the ball home into that millimetre of space. I had begun to think he used magical powers to see through his ears or something with all his no-look goals and passes! Bobby is Bobby. He works tirelessly, he creates chances, he scores goals, never gives an opponent an easy ride and is one of the best players in Europe right now. To think some of us were wondering if we would be able to maintain his performance levels without the almost telepathic link up he had with Coutinho. If anything Firmino is better without Couts as he is no longer always looking for him and is able to pick a better option.

 

Subs:

Klavan - Klopp looked to shore things up at the back by bringing on Klavan in the 80th minute in place of Firmino and to ensure the Brazilian never picked up a second yellow. By that point City had pretty much given up anyway, so he was not really stretched.

Clyne - Alexander-Arnold was another player with a yellow hanging over his head, so he was also replaced in the 80th minute, but by Clyne. He did struggle with the little attacking thrust City still displayed going at him, but he has missed most of the season and came on late in the game, so it is little wonder.

Ings - got a chance to savour the atmosphere in the dying few seconds of the match as he replaced Salah in the 89th minute to ensure the pressure was kept up on the City backline.

Written by Tris Burke April 11 2018 16:08:04