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Manchester City 2, Liverpool 2 (pen. 1-3): Raheem Sterling Does it Again

Liverpool move on to the final in the International Champions Cup™ as the squeak past Manchester City on penalties on the third stop of their US tour.

Mike Stobe

Manchester City 2: Jovetic 53', 67'
Liverpool 2: Henderson 59', Sterling 85'
Penalties (1-3):
Kolarov (-)
(-) Sturridge
Touré (-)
(+) Can
Navas (-)
(+) Henderson
Iheanacho (+)
(+) Lucas

There was no Lazar Markovic in the squad this time around--the young Serbian picked up a knock in training--but we did get the return of Philippe Coutinho in the midfield, with Rickie Lambert and Daniel Sturridge ahead of him and Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson, and Steven Gerrard joining him in a midfield diamond. Kolo Toure and Sebastian Coates(!!!) partnered in central defense to start, with Martin Kelly and Jose Enrique as fullbacks and Brad Jones once again in goal. Simon Mignolet and Mamadou Sakho were included after only recently joining up, and Emre Can, Suso, and Raheem Sterling.

That Fox chose to cut to a previously shown shot of Daniel Craig as the first item on their halftime highlights list was rather telling about the quality of the first forty-five. Setting up in a diamond formation on Brendan Rodgers' orders, Liverpool conjured very little magic in the first half and needed a bit more movement than they were able to garner with Rickie Lambert partnering Daniel Sturridge up front.

Still, Liverpool's best chance of the first half came after Lambert found himself on the end of a Jordan Henderson cross to head home a shot at point blank range. City's new boy Willy Caballero stopped the shot, and shortly thereafter City had their own chance at the other end of the pitch thanks to Jesus Navas, but Brad Jones kept the match 0-0 heading into the break.

Rodgers changed formation upon the restart and the second half quickly became far more lively than the first. Having looked brighter for the entire first half, it was unsurprising that City would be the side to break the deadlock when a Jesus Navas pass was played through Steven Gerrard's legs for Stevan Jovetić to chip into the back of Simon Mignolet's net. Liverpool immediately responded with a nice through ball from Gerrard that ended up on the feet of Philippe Coutinho, who managed a shot on target (!).

Jordan Henderson drew Liverpool level after collecting a loose ball after Daniel Sturridge went down in the box, but City pulled ahead a second time after yet another successful link up between Navas on the wing and Jovetic in the box, although like the first it was not the most spectacular of goals. Obviously refusing to go down without a fight, Liverpool continued to swarm the City end, and eventually earned a second goal for their effort when Raheem Sterling hammered one past Joe Hart.

After ninety minutes, the match was still a draw that forced the teams to a penalty shoot out due to the rules of the completely arbitrary and made up tournament the match was a part of. Simon Mignolet stopped two of four shots, and Daniel Sturridge confirmed that he should probably be very low on Brendan Rodgers' list of penalty takers during the Champions League knock-out rounds. Liverpool emerged victorious thanks to cleanly taken penalties from Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, and Lucas.

All in all, it was a game that was obviously improved by the introduction of Raheem Sterling in the second half, as he brought some much needed pace and skill to what was a not-so-speedy front line earlier in the match. The second half-substitutions — Sterling, Emre Can, Lucas Leiva — changed the shape of the game, and more than made up for the charitably lacklustre performances put in by Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, and especially poor wee Joe Allen.

A match in which Liverpool looked lucky to head to the break with a draw became a well earned win by the time it was over, but for every positive there was an area of improvement Brendan Rodgers will want to take a look at. Still, battling back after going behind twice against the reigning league champions is nothing to sneeze at and puts Rodgers that much closer to figuring out who will figure into his starting eleven come August 17.

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