Manchester City remain ahead in title race after thrilling 2-2 draw – 5 things we learned


Liverpool came from behind twice in a 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, but remain one point adrift of the league leaders with seven games remaining. So let’s take a look at five things we learned from this Premier League classic.

1. Title race still wide open

The two sides went into this contest separated by just one point. There was tremendous pressure on both sides, as this match was seen by many as a potential title decider.

Both sides focused on their own style of play and looked to grab the all-important three points, which would give either side a significant advantage in the title race. Liverpool began the game in a nervous manner, while City asserted their control immediately. Like the reverse fixture at Anfield, the two sides couldn’t be separated over the course of the 90 minutes, leaving the title race wide open.

There was also nothing to split in the tactical battle between Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp- two of the greatest tacticians in the modern era. Pep’s possession and ‘tiki-taka’ style of play was cancelled out by Klopp’s aggressive ‘gegenpressing’ tactics.

After this pulsating match, the title race remains wide open with both teams ready to capitalise on any potential slip ups.

2. De Bruyne dents Liverpool’s title ambitions

Kevin de Bruyne was at his scintillating best as ran the show from the middle of the pitch. The Belgium international was the best player on a pitch filled with world class talents.

De Bruyne took control of the midfield, overshadowing the likes of Thiago and Fabinho. The 30-year-old began the game in a direct and urgent manner, setting Gabriel Jesus away in the build-up to Raheem Sterling’s early chance.

Minutes later and de Bruyne was causing the visitors all kinds of problems. The creative playmaker ran towards the Liverpool backline before unleashing a powerful effort, which deflected into the back of the net. City’s captain led by example and put his side in front in their most important game of the season.

Throughout this game, de Bruyne continued to live up to his reputation of being a big game player. He orchestrated numerous opportunities for the home side, however the City front three were far from their clinical best.

Midway through the second half, de Bruyne sent Sterling through on goal with a delightful pass. Sterling found the back of the net, however VAR intervened and correctly ruled the goal out for offside. In the dying stages of this encounter, de Bruyne drifted into acres of space on the edge of the box, however he was left furious when Jesus decided to go for goal.

During the course of the 90 minutes, de Bruyne was a constant threat and came out on top in his duel with the experienced Fabinho. Liverpool’s defensive midfielder simply could not cope with de Bruyne and constantly found himself chasing his shadow. A stunning performance from City’s talisman.

3. Pep’s gamble pays off

Pep Guardiola has earned himself a reputation for making a tactical gamble before an important game. For example, in the Champions League final, Guardiola opted to play without a recognised defensive midfielder and this experiment was proven to be extremely costly.

The City boss decided to put the pressure on himself yet again, as he opted to for another tactical gamble. Despite accusations of overthinking his tactics, Guardiola decided to put himself into the spotlight by recalling Gabriel Jesus to the starting lineup.The striker was starting his first Premier League game since New Year’s Day.

Jesus played on the right of a City front three, which also included Raheem Sterling and and Phil Foden. The Brazilian’s inclusion in the starting lineup was seen as a shock as it meant Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish would have to settle for a place on the bench. Mahrez is City’s top scorer in all competitions, while Grealish was brought in for a club-record £100m fee.

However, Guardiola’s huge gamble paid off. Jesus was included in the starting lineup due to Guardiola wanting his side to press and exploit the space in behind Liverpool’s backline and the forward did this perfectly. City’s number nine constantly ran in behind Andrew Robertson, when the fullback pushed high up the pitch.

In the opening stages of the contest, Jesus got himself in behind and put the ball on a plate for Sterling, however he was unable to find the back of the net against his former club. However, Guardiola’s decision to start Jesus was vindicated when the forward got on the end of Joao Cancelo’s cross, giving the home side the lead.

In the second half, Jesus should have added to his tally. The dynamic forward, who was now playing in a much more central role, saw his goal-bound effort blocked by Virgil Van Dijk.

4. Jota starts and grabs an important goal

Heading into this game, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was faced with numerous selection dilemmas. With the arrival of Luis Dias from Porto, the Reds now have many different options in attacking areas. It was almost certain that Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane would start, however the third forward was up for debate with Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino all fit and available.

Klopp has opted for Diaz in recent weeks, due to the forward being in fine form, however many believed that it would be Firmino who would get the nod due to his impressive record against City. Jota was given the start and the Portugal international justified his selection immediately.

The 25-year-old pounced to get the Reds back on level terms with his 21st goal of the season. This was Jota’s first ever goal against City and it was an extremely important one as up until this point, the visitors were struggling and were unable to cope with City. The goal settled the away side’s nerves following their shaky start.

The poacher combined well with Salah and Mane, but should have put his side in front in the second half. Jota had just Ederson to beat, but was unable to find this finish on this occasion. The forward had a quiet second half and eventually made way for Diaz.

Although, he didn’t have his best game, the striker got the equaliser at a crucial point in the match. Klopp was rewarded for the faith he showed in Jota.

5. City’s fullbacks show their class

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson have been labelled as the best full-backs in the world, due to the attacking qualities they posses, however in this match it was Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo who stole the show. The City fullbacks can’t compete with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson in an attacking sense, however Cancelo and Walker were brilliant defensively and in possession in this match.

Cancelo, who was playing as an inverted left back, was a joy to watch when he was on the ball. The Portugal international acted as an additional midfielder for the hosts and this allowed City to assert their dominance and dictate proceedings. However, the 27-year-old also fulfilled his defensive duties and limited Salah’s impact on the game-something which many fullbacks haven’t been able to do.

The left-back also provided a crucial assist, sending an inviting cross into the penalty area. Jesus met Cancelo’s cross to give the Cityzens the lead for the second time in the contest.

Like Cancelo, Walker was equally put in a solid performance and was equally as impressive. The Englishman kept his composure at all times and dealt with the threats posed by Robertson and Mane. The fullback made several overlapping runs to support Jesus, but also showed great acceleration to get back and prevent Liverpool from transitioning into dangerous situations.

Robertson and Alexander-Arnold did have good games, however they lacked the balance of the City fullbacks. On numerous occasions in the match, Jesus found space in behind Robertson, while Alexander-Arnold’s defensive fragilities were similarly exposed by Foden and Cancelo. Kevin de Bruyne stole the show with his terrific display, however Cancelo and Walker’s exceptional performances should not be overlooked.

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