Liverpool put together a thorough performance over Manchester City today to push their lead over the league title winners to nine points and to hold Leicester City and Chelsea at bay with an eight point cushion. Liverpool are, headed into the international break, well regarded as the team to beat in the title and are, on current form, the best club in England and in with a shout for best club in the world.
It’s heady, heady times for Liverpool and its supporters, so let’s dive into some of the interesting aspects of this match.
Winners and Losers
Liverpool’s fullbacks are often packaged together and, as such, sometimes fall behind the headier names in the lineup when it comes to getting their due. So, I’ll be separating them both out today as they each deserve credit for a terrific match.
For the Scotsman, the obvious choice for the moment in the match is his absolutely sublime and inch-perfect cross to Mohamed Salah to notch the second goal. It was the type of quality both in service and vision that we’ve come to expect from the left back and his touch did not let him down.
Crucially, that goal game mere moments after Liverpool’s (potentially) controversial opener, essentially answering the question for the rest of the match. It was the type of goal that would help to at least blunt some of the chatter around VAR and officiating (more on that, though).
Liverpool’s right back, though, had himself a match to remember. No, he did not notch an assist like his counterpart, but it was his gorgeous, cross-field switch that ensured Robertson had the ball to cross to begin with.
More importantly, though, he was involved in an incredibly cagey and entertaining match up with Raheem Sterling. Sterling will be discussed a bit more later, but suffice to say that the Manchester City winger and former Liverpool player found his day to be rather frustrating. TAA’s ability to blunt and put off balance a player who, on current form, has a legitimate claim to the title of best attacker in the league, was crucial to bagging all three points.
The Scouse hero’s day was, for me, a man of the match worthy performance.
The winger will have been felt hard done by to walk off the pitch without a goal but, inn all honesty, he’s got nothing to be ashamed about. It took an all-world performance defensively from Trent Alexander-Arnold to frustrate Sterling just enough. And even then, he still found a moment or two to cause Liverpool fans a bit of a scare.
Sterling has, unqualifiedly, reached a level that we, as first hand observers of his early work, could only dream of. Credit to him.
I know it’s kinda like trolling to say that City were losers given that they were, in fact, losers due to the scoreline but like it’s 100% true that these guys ended up the losers of this match so I suppose it’s very, very accurate to refer to the Citizens as losers for the rest of this piece.
Tactics Talk: Sterling vs. TAA
It was mentioned a bit above but, wow. Wow. It was something else to see Raheem Sterling at the height of his ability - so far - looking imposing and dangerous as he came into the attack. The versatility of his skillset and his sense of space were all on display. And there were a few moments if he’d been just a bit more clinical, he’d have made Liverpool play.
Instead, TAA managed to do just enough against this world-class talent that he never felt quite secure and settled. There was an angst in Raheem’s play that begun to bubble up to the surface as the match - and Sterling’s inability to find a breakthrough - continued.
It was the kind of individual level match-up that you don’t often get at high-level football and what a treat it truly was to watch. If anyone has and is willing to produce a film of an iso cam on these two for this match, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.
What Happens Next
Liverpool sit atop the table and, for the first time in a while, the teams closest to them in the hunt for the title are not Manchester City. As it currently stands, the Reds have an eight point advantage over each of Leicester City and Chelsea. Manchester City are now a point back, nine points off the pace.
There’s lots of football to be played and the only thing that was really and truly accomplished today is that Liverpool did enough today to ensure that they are still the writers of their own destiny. Whatever happens from this point to the end of the season, Liverpool won’t be looking to anyone but themselves given that they are the pace setters.
Perhaps more interestingly, though, is that Liverpool have taken max points from all of their nearest rivals in the title hunt. Which means that every single one of the teams below them will need a little bit of help from other squads if they hope to catch the Reds. Not having to rely on anyone else to claim this coveted prize, though, feels like a bit of a reward itself.
Now, Liverpool will head into the international break where rest and recuperation (and, hopefully, no new injuries for the Reds slated to head off to represent their national teams) will be the goal. Up the top of the table Reds!