Liverpool 3 Lallana 33', Milner 40', Firmino 57'
A goal and an assist each from Adam Lallana, James Milner and Roberto Firmino proves plenty for Liverpool, as they deliver a little retribution to a tame Manchester City for their loss in the League Cup final on Sunday.
Klopp overhauled his XI with five changes after his team went 120 minutes without a reward on Sunday, reinstating Kolo Toure, Dejan Lovren and Jon Flanagan to the back four, alongside the ever-present Nathaniel Clyne, who is apparently a machine sent from the future to run up and down the wing forever. Emre Can and Jordan Henderson made up the double pivot, while Lallana, Firmino and Milner supported lone striker Divock Origi.
The first half hour felt like a bit of a hangover from the weekend's festivities, as neither side produced any clear chances. Liverpool pressed and harried while City started slow, and the only highlights from the first third of the match was a cheeky Henderson nutmeg on Gael Clichy, Raheem Sterling getting smashed by Jon Flanagan, and the crowd going ironically applauding Sterling as he hit an ambitious 20-yard effort well wide.
The first goal of the game would come from nothing, as Adam Lallana bobbled a left-footed effort towards goal from 25 yards and a horrendously positioned Joe Hart let it roll into the near corner. Klopp couldn't believe it, but Lallana, who has been criticised for his lack of end product, will take any bit of luck he can get.
Five minutes later, the Reds would score their second. A piece of possession play involving ten different players culminated in a Lallana backheel and a terrifically weighted through-ball from Firmino that Milner took in stride and toe-poked past Hart. Scoring two of their first three shots on target was uncharacteristically effective from the home side, and the kind of ruthlessness fans would like to see more of.
The second half started well for Liverpool, as Origi - a constant source of anxiety for Nicolas Otamendi throughout the match - was played in the right hand channel by Milner, but his shot from a tight angle was well saved by Hart.
Ten minutes later, Firmino put the match to bed. Lallana picked up a loose ball from another Origi-Otamendi duel, took a couple of silky touches, and rolled the ball into Firmino in the box. The Brazilian's first-touch finish was clinical, as he curled the ball beyond Hart and into the far corner.
The game calmed down for the last thirty minutes, as Liverpool were happy with their lead and City were tired and demoralised. There were a few more chances, as Milner first tested Hart with a hammer of a shot following a deflected Origi cross, and then dragged a left-footer over after bursting into the box from the left. Christian Benteke, who spent the entirety of the cup final on the bench, came on for Origi, and Joe Allen replaced Firmino, as substitutions further disrupted the flow of the match.
Henderson curled a 20-yard free kick a foot wide of the near post, a bearded and alice-banded Allen slammed a volley over the top of the bar, and that was that.
As inconsequential as this match might have seemed to Liverpool fans after losing at the weekend, it certainly wasn't that for Manchester City, who went ten points behind Leicester with their loss tonight, likely spelling the end for any title ambitions. That the Reds were able to make the reigning champions look so flat and toothless for ninety minutes is a great credit to the spirit and ability that resides in the team. City were limited to four total shots, none of which seriously threatened Simon Mignolet, indicating a stout defensive performance.
At the heart of that performance were a solid centre-back pairing in Lovren and Toure, who did well to contain the dangerman Sergio Agüero throughout. Sterling was substituted at half-time after having been kept completely quiet by Flanagan and Milner, and Jesus Navas found little luck against makeshift left-back Clyne. The front six all worked immensely hard, refusing City's midfielders time and space, and while the double pivot of Can and Henderson weren't always as accurate as one would like with their passing, they did well to cover their back four, racking up 10 tackles and 6 interceptions between them.
Milner and Lallana were everywhere, closing down and sprinting back, all while offering attacking threat and end product. Firmino continues to look the club's best player, not necessarily in that he looks the most likely to do something spectacular - although his goal or assist rate of one every 105 minutes puts him in the top five in the league - but in consistently making the right decisions and converting those into accurate actions on the pitch. Origi put himself about with a performance that had Otamendi visibly nervous towards the end, with direct and aggressive running combined with strong hold-up play. The goal was missing, but he proved why he is currently Klopp's second choice ahead of his compatriot Benteke.
An away trip to bogey team Crystal Palace is up next for the Reds, and the hope is that the team can carry the confidence and application from tonight into that game.