Man City 2-1 Liverpool
Premier League, Etihad Stadium
January 3, 2019
Goals: Aguero 40′, Firmino 64′, Sane 72′
Alisson (out of 10) – 6
The Brazilian faced his biggest game yet in a Reds shirt but it wasn’t always his most commanding showing.
Some nervy early distribution was on show, and while he did well to parry away a cross-cum-shot shortly before, he should have done better for Aguero’s goal, having been beaten at his near post.
He denied the striker expertly late on, though.
Not in his greatest form of late, Alexander-Arnold’s performance here was a tale of two halves.
He was underwhelming in the opening 45 minutes, not always looking confident defensively and failing to produce consistent end product.
He was excellent in the second half, however, playing a key role in Firmino’s equaliser and showing superb technical quality and energy down the right flank.
Dejan Lovren – 4
Lovren remains a divisive figure who supporters aren’t universally convinced by and this was a night that proved his critics right.
He was booked for a reckless lunge on Sergio Aguero, before being caught horribly on his heels in the lead-up to the Argentine firing home the opener.
The Croatian was poor in possession – one wasteful long ball in the dying seconds summed it up – and he looked all over the place at times.
Lovren is far from a bad player, but he isn’t, and never will be, the solution at Liverpool. Joe Gomez is back later this month.
Virgil van Dijk – 8
Liverpool’s key man was yet again a rock at the heart of the defence, barely putting a foot wrong while Lovren floundered alongside him.
The Dutchman was calm in possession, got rid of the ball when required and showcased his aerial prowess.
His efforts were in vein in the end, but he couldn’t have done much more against the champions.
Andy Robertson – 7
Robertson started at the Etihad, despite rumours earlier in the day suggesting he wouldn’t feature.
The Scot got the better of former Liverpool man Raheem Sterling in general, but he struggled to offer much in an attacking sense for large periods until later in the day.
He did provide the assist for Firmino, though, getting on the end of Alexander-Arnold’s pass and crossing first time on the volley.
Jordan Henderson – 7
The skipper returned to the side on Thursday night and the positives outweighed the negatives.
His intensity was impressive from the off, but there was also more quality in his passing and he showed tactical discipline that he isn’t often credited for.
He didn’t stamp his authority on the match as much as City’s midfielders, though.
Gini Wijnaldum – 6.5
One of Liverpool’s best performers this season, Wijnaldum was a more muted presence in a relentless game, despite doing working hard.
The Reds just needed that little bit more from him going forward, with a preference for the easy ball too often on show.
Kept things neat and tidy and did endless defensive work.
James Milner – 6
Milner returned to face his former club after recovering from a hamstring injury, but he wasn’t quite at the races.
That’s not to say he was bad, by any means, but his energy wasn’t at its usual freakish levels and he failed to provide enough service for the front three.
Substituted before the hour mark.
Mohamed Salah – 6.5
Salah returned to a right-sided role, but on a night where the Reds were often in defensive mode, his influence was lacking.
His through-ball should have led to Mane opening the scoring, but that was one of the Liverpool No.11’s biggest attacking inputs.
Denied by Alisson with the minutes ticking by, although his effort may have been going wide anyway.
Sadio Mane – 6
The Senegalese was a frustrating presence, often threatening to make things happen but remaining on the periphery of the action too often.
He hit the post agonisingly, in what was a match-changing moment – being ultra-critical at this level, he had to do better.
It has been an up-and-down season to date for Mane and he didn’t deliver when Liverpool badly needed him.
Roberto Firmino – 7
Firmino led the line, pushing up from a No.10 berth to the striker’s role he thrived in so much last season.
Like Salah and Mane, Firmino was quieter than many on the pitch, although there were some moments of genuine quality thrown in, from neat flicks to clever headers.
He also scored the equaliser, of course, heading home from a few yards out.
Starting XI Average Rating: 6.5
Fabinho (on for Milner, 56′) – 7
Made a difference immediately, combining quick use of the ball with a physical edge.
Xherdan Shaqiri (on for Mane, 77′) – 6
Looked dangerous but ultimately achieved little.
Daniel Sturridge (on for Wijnaldum, 85′) – n/a
No time to make an impact.
Subs not used: Mignolet, Moreno, Keita, Lallana
Jurgen Klopp – 7
Klopp went with a more robust-looking 4-3-3 formation and his midfield felt understandable, given its experience and know-how of such big games at the club.
In hindsight, starting Milner was the wrong move, however, with the veteran slightly off the pace and Fabinho the better option.
It could also be argued that the manager was a little too cautious in the first half, which played into City’s hands.
It is being picky, though, and the bottom line is that Klopp got a fairly decent performance out of his players in a fantastic game against a wonderful team.
The change to 4-2-3-1 when Fabinho came on worked very well, with Liverpool in far more control thereafter and the full backs much higher up the pitch – combining for the equaliser.
The Reds are still four points clear – what a position to be in!