Although Liverpool has largely dominated the matchup with Manchester City in recent years, the Reds’ rousing 1-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s new look Citizens in the last kick of 2016 felt particularly significant as a major blow to a rival in the most competitive Premier League season in recent memory.
Manager Jürgen Klopp expressed relief at his side’s triumph in a close matchup, “Yes of course, the quality of Man City the situation in this season and that we already have a lot of games [made the win special],” the boss admitted.
“When you invest in a game like this so much in the end, of course, you want to have it all and thank God we got it because the day after tomorrow we play again [at Sunderland]. We wanted to take the feeling and all that stuff because it’s very important.”
The German out-thought his opposite number in their first meeting on English shores, as the Red midfield starved the City danger men of service, possession and time on the ball. Being well-versed in the Spaniard’s methods from their numerous clashes in the Bundesliga, Klopp masterfully set his team up such that the likes of David Silva, Sergio Aguero—a particular thorn in Liverpool’s side in times past—and Kevin De Bruyne were smothered and frustrated for much of the match, ultimately holding the league’s joint third-leading scorers to a paltry two shots on target.
Klopp, who has alluded to his team’s tactical focus on limiting chances and opportunities in the past, praised his side for executing the gameplan almost to perfection:
“Yeah it was very difficult, they couldn’t create too many chances and we defended really well and good in possession, that’s clear.
The lead could have been wider, with the likes of the otherwise scintillating Roberto Firmino holding onto the ball a fraction too long in a 2v1 breakaway in the first half the most glaring of a number of missed opportunities. City capitalized on the Reds’ profligacy on the ball in the second period, briefly climbing into the ascendancy following Jordan Henderson’s withdrawal with a knock.
However, it was a testament to the team’s growing maturity that they were able to regain their composure and hang on to ultimately vanquish such a notable opponent, a fact that Klopp commended his side for, “I think in the first half we had two counterattacks where we made the wrong decision with timing and passing,” Klopp said ruefully.
“[In the] second half when we had the biggest problems were when we gave the ball away too easily. We defended them well [in these turnover situations] and they couldn’t really come through but when you lose the ball in situations when nobody expected, it’s really difficult and helped them to find the spaces.
“But in the end, intense game but deserved win.”