It was the one fixture circled on the calendar of anyone with even a passing interest in the Premier League. The clash at the summit of the table between Liverpool and Manchester City as the two mooted contenders for the title was a match that promised so much, but flattered to deceive in offering so little, ultimately ending 0-0.
In truth, it was a day for defenders, as last season’s two top-scoring sides were stifled with a paltry four shots on target between them. Dejan Lovren, in his first appearance in a league matchday squad, paired with Virgil Van Dijk in the center of the park pushing the standout Joe Gomez out into the right back position in place of an out-of-form Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Along with Alisson in goal and the stalwart Andrew Robertson on the opposite flank, the back five largely nullified one of Europe’s most feared attacks, with two penalty shouts—one given, one not—the only blemishes on an otherwise sterling defensive performance.
One of those two incidents nearly allowed the visitors to escape from Anfield with a shock win, when Van Dijk mistimed a tackle on City’s Leroy Sane in the 85th minute forcing Martin Atkinson to give a penalty with the game poised. Fortunately for the Reds, Riyad Mahrez took the spot kick over the protestations of Gabriel Jesus and promptly proceeded to sky it into the Anfield Road Stand, much the Dutch defender’s relief:
“It is not smart to dive in there. It was a penalty and it shouldn’t have happened, but I’m very happy we didn’t concede,” Van Dijk admitted after the match.
”I watched it because I wanted to get the rebound if he missed it. They did well, as did we, up until the penalty moment.
”We were unlucky not to score, and lucky not to concede as well, so I think we canceled each other out. It was a tough game against the champions and I’m happy we kept the clean sheet.
”We wanted to bounce back from our defeat to Napoli and I think we did that.”
The result benefitted Chelsea the most, leaving the Reds in third behind City and the Londoners. Liverpool head into the international break now winless in their last four and Jürgen Klopp will be hoping use the extended time off to get his side firing once again in their quest for the league title.