Premier League action resumed after the international break as Manchester City were set to host Liverpool at the Etihad.
In their last game, Manchester City were frustratingly held to a draw against Aston Villa at Villa Park. The Sky Blues were out looking to bag their first Premier League win in the month of November and they wanted it desperately because only a win would take them to the top of the league.
The visitors were also looking for their first Premier League win in November as they came into this one after losing to high flying Crystal Palace at Anfield before the International break. New manager Jürgen Klopp had already beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before going down to Palace and hoped to replicate his team’s performance in London.
Manuel Pellegrini made four changes to his side who drew at Villa Park. A big boost for Manchester City as Sergio Aguero was back and fit enough to start. Surprising changes in the heart of defence saw Nicolas Otamendi dropped to the bench and Martin Demichelis started alongside Eliaquim Mangala who came in for Vincent Kompany. Fernandinho dropped to the bench as Fernando started alongside Yaya Toure in midfield and Jesus Navas was also included in the starting eleven with Wilfried Bony out because of an injury.
Jürgen Klopp had already bagged three points at Stamford Bridge and looked to do the same at The Etihad as he made three changes to his team who lost to Crystal Palace at home. Daniel Sturridge was back from injury, but was only included on the bench. Christian Benteke was also benched as Roberto Firmino was handed a start as striker. The other two changes saw Mamadou Sakho drop out of the squad due to an injury and Jordan Ibe dropped to the bench as both were replaced by Dejan Lovren and James Milner, respectively.
The stage was set as Raheem Sterling and James Milner, both looked forward to face off against their former clubs.
We didn’t have to wait long for the first goal of the match which surprisingly fell to Liverpool in the 8th minute courtesy of an own goal from Mangala. Sagna gave the ball away and Coutinho set up Firmino who put in a low cross and helpless Mangala tapped the ball past Joe Hart to give Liverpool the lead.
City looked for an instant response but Liverpool stood strong and handled the attacks well. Liverpool then doubled their lead thanks to Philippe Coutinho who was set up by a perfect cross from Firmino in the 23rd minute.
City were caught on the counter yet again and they conceded yet again in 32nd minute after Milner, Can, Coutinho were all involved beautifully in the goal which was eventually tapped into an open goal by Firmino.
Just as it was looking like City were going to be humiliated in their own backyard, Sergio Aguero took advantage of some complacency from Liverpool and fired a beautiful shot past Mignolet to put Man City back in the game.
After a thrilling, action packed first half, City came out more determined in the second half, trying to scupper at least a point from the game. The Aguero goal in the dying minutes of the first half did give them hope.
Pellegrini made two substitutions at half time. Yaya Toure and Jesus Navas were withdrawn and Fernandinho and Fabian Delph came on. Surprising change.
Even after the substitutions, City tried their level best, but could not beat the Liverpool defence. Liverpool were threatening on the counter and would’ve scored at least 2 or 3 more goals if it wasn’t for Joe Hart who saved a crucial one-on-one against Christian Benteke who had come on for Firmino just a few minutes back.
But Liverpool did score their fourth as Martin Skrtel saw the ball land in front of him from a corner and he volleyed a powerful shot past Hart in the 81st minute to put the final nail in the coffin.
- Manuel Pellegrini’s men struggled in defence. City clearly missed their skipper Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi too.
• With a weak defence, the manager also decided to play Fernando instead of Fernandinho in midfield alongside Toure.
• City also quite clearly missing the creativity of David Silva. Jesus Navas isn’t the best player to replace him, but City have no other options.
• Aguero start was a big boost, but behind him, the team seemed to fail to cope up and hence they were struggling, especially when Liverpool were on the counter.
- Liverpool will be relieved to see that Klopp plays a 4-2-3-1. The 3-5-2 never suited their style and now everyone fits in perfectly.
• Even though Sakho was out injured, Lovren put in a very good performance alongside Skrtel and dealt with the City attack very well.
• With Lallana, Coutinho and Milner in advanced midfield positions, Klopp got pace and experience which proved to be very important in the end.
• Before kickoff, many wondered why Klopp benched Benteke and opted for Firmino instead. The first half answered that question. He saw the shaky defence and opted for Pace over the physical presence of Benteke.
So to sum it up in short, Manchester City missed their star players and they failed to cope with the changes made to the starting eleven. They just could not handle Klopp’s pacey Liverpool who sat deep and hit City on the counter.