Liverpool twice led but couldn’t hold on to beat Man City at Anfield in a back-and-forth game – but the point is a positive after a poor first half.
Liverpool 2-2 Man City
Anfield, Premier League
Sunday 3 October, 2021
Goals: Mane 58′, Salah 76′; Foden 69′, De Bruyne 81′
Henderson’s worrisome form
The first-half showing from the Liverpool captain was as far-removed as could be for what was required against Man City.
It started with a clipped cross to nobody from a promising attacking position and ended with him failing to give James Milner any kind of protection against Phil Foden two or three times in quick succession – with a lot of misplaced passes in between.
At the break, in fact, he had completed just 50% of his passes – way below anyone else on the pitch.
Second half? He, along with about eight others, stepped up considerably – at least in terms of his energy and running. But there was still a looseness in possession and too many occasions where he failed entirely to track the runner or protect the full-back.
At the other end of the scale, Joel Matip has enjoyed another upturn in fortunes and form and was the standout of the first 45 minutes for the Reds.
Defensively he was the one who continually made the cut-outs from passes, cleared the balls from deep and played the covering role against runners behind the full-back.
Part of that was City attacking our right so much, but even when it came from the other side, Matip was in place where Virgil van Dijk wasn’t once or twice.
We also got to see the rampaging, creative, dribbling version of Matip, with several searching passes into the forwards’ feet and several runs from deep to try and get the Reds going.
Very, very unlucky to only deflect in City’s second, rather than making another big block.
A moment of Milner
Having to play right-back once more was James Milner, Liverpool’s vice-captain and ever-willing to plug whichever gap is most required.
The No7 has played full-back lots now, yet it must be kept in mind it isn’t his role. It must be kept in mind, that position almost always plays against young, fast, technically gifted players.
It’s inevitable to see him be booked with some of the decisions he’s forced to take – and yet, we have to acknowledge it’s also very fortunate he wasn’t sent-off with the scores still at 1-1; it was a clear and deliberate trip by him, having already made a foul since his booking, and he should have seen red.
The wider issue here remains to be the squad depth – we don’t have a right-sided ‘Kostas’ in the group – and in the main he fares well.
Unbelievable Mohamed Salah
This was one of those “give him what he wants” days from Mohamed Salah.
A totally, inarguably, world-class performance from our Egyptian King, a marvellous assist and a season-contender of a goal.
Leaving four City defenders – one conceded before today! – in a heap and beating the keeper with his wrong foot was nothing short of astonishing.
Add in lots of counters, lots of pressing, lots of covering in defence and tracking back, and this was Virtuoso Mo at his finest.
Sign him up!
Manchester City are, like it or not, one of the best teams in the world – maybe the best side this year, certainly the best one last year which would have seen them recognised as such if not for the manager’s tactical overthinking in the Champions League final.
They had only conceded once this season ahead of this match – back on the opening day of the season – and were looking much, much better than the Reds at the halfway point of the match.
As such, the second half can be seen as a big response. We matched them in many areas and could have beaten them. We remain ahead on points in the table, even though there’s work to do.
Two wins from the last five in the league isn’t ideal when every dropped point can prove costly; this might not be another 98-or-100-point season to win the title, but it’ll surely be toward 85 or so. Unbeaten is tremendous, but almost as many draws as wins isn’t quite as fine.
An international break now, and the challenges that brings, then we must get back to winning ways at Watford.