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Gaps at the back, Salah & the unbeaten Reds – Last word on Liverpool 2-2 Man City

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It was a heavyweight clash at Anfield that left players and fans alike exhausted and that the 2-2 draw could have edged either Liverpool‘s or Man City‘s way said it all.

The final game before yet another international break was far from straightforward with the Reds going through a rollercoaster of emotions on Sunday afternoon.

That Liverpool were still in the contest by half-time was a relief and then they were unlucky not to have taken all three points thanks to the genius that is Mohamed Salah.

But defensive holes twice allowed Man City to strike back through Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne to ensure the points were shared – it means the Reds remain the only undefeated Premier League side.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by Dan Clubbe (@dan_clubbe), who was at Anfield, to discuss world-class Salah, the misteps in defence and the still unbeaten Reds.

 

Now, what about that Salah performance and goal…

Mohamed Salah goal vs Man City, Anfield, 2021 (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

DAN: Amidst all the recent talk comparing Salah to previous Liverpool greats, that performance and stunning goal have just further established the Egyptian King as amongst the very best to play for the club.

Whilst it’s easy to run out of superlatives for the man, we must continue to try because players like this don’t come around too often – certainly in my lifetime supporting the Reds.

JOANNA: Exactly right, Dan! It’s a real privilege to be able to watch him play for our club week in and week out.

His consistency and availability is astounding and his all-around game has certainly gone up a notch this season, his competitiveness knows no bounds. You can certainly see him getting close to the 40-goal marker.

DAN: Adding to that Joanna, for him to step up and produce the two most telling moments of quality in a match of this magnitude, in which Liverpool struggled to get a foothold for large parts, shows the calibre of the player and nobody was more unfortunate not to have earned all three points.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 3, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané (R) celebrates with team-mate Mohamed Salah after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

That goal was a moment for the ages and as close as I’ve witnessed to Lionel Messi in the Premier League. There is no doubting Salah is currently doing it better than anyone out there.

JOANNA: It was certainly more than worthy of being the match-winner and it’s an early goal of the season contender!

I couldn’t believe it when the net rippled, I had just thought there was little chance from that angle on his right foot – very happy to be proven wrong. What a genius he is.

Sign him up now, Liverpool!

 

More defensive questions arose…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 3, 2021: Manchester City's Phil Foden scores the first equalising goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: It was really puzzling how consistently Liverpool left James Milner to handle the situation by himself, who was then pulled out of position as City tried various tactics to take advantage.

Klopp had said earlier in the week that “whoever plays there should be protected by at least two players in a right-back situation – a centre-half and a midfielder, and a winger.” It didn’t happen.

Jordan Henderson was far too high up the pitch and Joe Gomez then also fell into the trap but gravitated toward the centre of defence, leaving Foden with acres of space to exploit.

DAN: I do have to say, credit should go to Manchester City for suffocating Liverpool for large parts of the first half, but there were certainly areas of major concern defensively.

Despite recent strong performances from an unfamiliar right-back position, Milner was found wanting all too often, albeit not helped by an apparent lack of support as Joanna mentioned.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 3, 2021: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Whilst it’s almost impossible to be too critical of such a professional playing out of position, almost every moment of frailty stemmed from that side.

Caught chasing shadows all too often, Foden was allowed the freedom of the penalty area in the first half before Alisson saved the day.

JOANNA: Speaking of Alisson, despite a few nervous moments early on, he was incredibly important and we needed him speeding off his line and taking control.

Would really have liked to have seen if he could have stopped De Bruyne’s shot without Joel Matip‘s deflection. Now we are to be without him for two games.

DAN: But, by far the most disappointing moment defensively was seeing Gabriel Jesus carry the ball from the right-hand touchline across the face of the box before setting up the first equaliser.

Andy Robertson, Curtis Jones and Fabinho all get within touching distance and not one could stop the threat.

 

But the Reds are still unbeaten…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 3, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAN: Overall it has been an impressive opening two months and Liverpool have definitely shown they “have what it takes” this season, to quote Salah.

Given the sheer amount of returnees, few could’ve anticipated an unbeaten start across all competitions – therefore downbeat isn’t an option as a Liverpool fan right now.

Although two draws in the last two Premier League outings – especially from winning positions – is dispiriting, we live to fight another day on every front.

JOANNA: It’s as good of a situation as we could have hoped for at the start of August as we all but started again with a handful of players returning from injury.

That goals are being scored regularly eases the concern from last season, with 25 in nine games, but it’s at the other end of the field where weaknesses have started to show.

It’s the area for improvement after the break and while those draws that Dan mention are certainly disappointing considering the victories were there for the taking, there’s plenty of positive signs that this could be another season to remember – for all the right reasons!

Up the unbeaten Reds! (A run that actually dates back to April in all competitions).

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 3, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp applauds the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAN: After the break, we face a trip to Watford – with a new manager, of course. That is a game with wrongs to right and will hopefully mark the return of Thiago and Trent Alexander-Arnold, two hugely important players to this squad.

With a revitalised Jurgen Klopp at the helm, Virgil van Dijk at the back and Salah frankly being a genius, there’s no denying this side can achieve something special this season!

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