Liverpool produced an exceptional all-round display on their return to the Premier League on Wednesday night, thrashing Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield.
Liverpool 3-0 Man City
Premier League – Anfield – Wednesday 2nd February 2016
Goals: Lallana 34′, Milner 41′, Firmino 57′
Simon Mignolet – 7 (out of 10)
After a testing afternoon at Wembley on Sunday, Mignolet enjoyed a quiet 90 minutes as City’s attacking line struggled to breach the Liverpool defence.
When called upon, the Belgian was alert, but this victory was a goalkeeper’s dream.
Jon Flanagan – 7.5
Up against his former team-mate, Raheem Sterling, the 23-year-old shone, throwing himself into challenges, making vital blocks and supporting the attack with real quality.
Flanagan was understandably rusty on occasion, but it was a formidable display from a man with a point to prove.
Kolo Toure – 7.5
Like Flanagan, Toure sees his contract expire at the end of the season; like Flanagan, the Ivorian is desperate to extend his terms beyond the summer; and like Flanagan, he showcased just why this should be the case on Wednesday night.
With Manuel Pellegrini throwing on two extra strikers in the second half, the onus was on Toure at the heart of defence, and the centre-back excelled.
Dejan Lovren – 7
With Sergio Aguero largely occupying City’s left channel, Lovren was less involved than his defensive partner, but performed with strength and composure on his return from injury.
Shifted to the left-hand side of defence in the absence of Mamadou Sakho, Lovren provided an able alternative to the Frenchman.
Nathaniel Clyne – 7
Out of position at left-back, Clyne was limited in his approach when surging forward, with the England international constantly looking to shift onto his right.
Despite this, the 24-year-old still managed to contribute effectively as Liverpool swarmed the City defence.
With Jesus Navas in poor form throughout, Clyne was barely tested in the defensive sector, but made a number of timely interventions to disrupt City’s flow.
Jordan Henderson – 7
Though outshone by his midfield colleagues, Henderson kept possession ticking over well at the base of Liverpool’s 4-2-3-1.
Utilising the pace of Divock Origi, the captain looked to prompt fast attacking moves with direct passes, but a blustery Merseyside evening hindered his productivity.
Nevertheless this was a significant improvement on Sunday’s muted showing.
Emre Can – 8.5
Overworked throughout 2015/16 so far, it is no surprise that a 22-year-old Can has endured a hit-and-miss run of form of late, but producing a phenomenal midfield display against City on Wednesday night, the German reassured supporters of his quality.
Strong and sharp in the challenge, classy in moving the ball into the final third and incisive in his final bass, this was a superlative display from a potentially world-class midfielder.
James Milner – 7.5
Like Henderson, Milner spent much of his weekend running into blind alleys, but the vice-captain found his rhythm once again in Liverpool’s fluid midfield at Anfield.
Most striking were Milner’s surging runs into the penalty area, both on and off the ball, and it was this third-man instinct that saw him latch onto Roberto Firmino‘s pass to fire home Liverpool’s second on 41 minutes.
Roberto Firmino – 8
Such is the any-former-player-will-do approach to BT Sport’s punditry recruitment, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and Co. spent a section of pre-match scratching around for reasons to criticise Firmino; ultimately, they landed on his versatility.
Shortly after, the Brazilian proved this to be farcical, with his ethereal display, drifting between the lines and maintaining pressure on the City defence, key to Liverpool’s success.
Adam Lallana – 8.5 (Man of the Match)
So often guilty of fading out of high-profile encounters, Lallana provided Liverpool with their talisman in an intensive, pressing performance in Klopp’s 4-2-3-1.
His off-ball work was as important as his efforts in front of goal, with the No. 20 on the front foot throughout, replicating his searing display from November’s 4-1 win at the Etihad.
A mature showing, and a much-needed response, from one of Liverpool’s senior attackers.
Divock Origi – 7.5
The ovation that rippled around Anfield when Origi was substituted late into the second half served as a testament to the Belgian’s understated brilliance against City.
Operating in a fluid centre-forward’s role, Origi employed his pace and intelligence to drift behind the City defence throughout, stretching play and creating space for his fellow attackers.
He didn’t get his name on the scoresheet, but the 20-year-old played a very important role.
Christian Benteke (on for Origi, 69′) – 6.5 – Held the ball up well, but impossible to ignore how Liverpool’s tempo dropped on his introduction.
Joe Allen (on for Firmino, 75′) – N/A – Bar an ambitious long-range volley in the closing stages, did little to make a mark in his 15 minutes on the field.
Jordon Ibe (on for Milner, 88′) – N/A – Ignored a surging overlap from Flanagan as Liverpool looked for a fourth late on, in what was his only contribution to the game.
Manager: Jurgen Klopp – 8
With Liverpool dominant from the first whistle on Wednesday night, Klopp’s tactical nous gave them the edge, with the German clearly drilling his side to press City from all angles, banking on their fresh legs securing an advantage.
Furthermore, by dropping the out-of-form Moreno, Klopp showed his ruthlessness, and was rewarded with an emphatic display from Flanagan. Everything fell into place at Anfield.
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