Anfield was bubbling over at kick off as Liverpool and Manchester City faced off in a heavyweight match with major title implications. The match did not disappoint as both teams will feel they should have come away with all three points. Instead, the teams shared the points thanks to some scintillating attacking play from both sides. Mohamed Salah is yet again making the case for being the best player in the game right now with an assist and a brilliant solo goal.
The Egyptian striker is currently waiting on a new deal from Liverpool, and he is certainly showing that he deserves to be handsomely compensated. After a dip in form last season, Mo is back to his sublime best. He was a danger down the right flank, especially during the second half.
He was the creator of Liverpool’s first goal, carrying the ball down the right before cutting infield to pull defenders with him. He played a perfectly weighted pass for Sadio Mane to run onto and hit first time for the finish. Liverpool’s second goal was all about Salah. There are goals that will stick with you due to the sheer brilliance in a big moment, and this was one. He displayed quickness, delicate close control, and amazing vision to fashion a shooting chance from what looked like nothing before smashing the ball WITH HIS RIGHT FOOT. Just amazing stuff.
The lanky defender had another quietly great night. On the defensive side, he did well to cut out danger on more than a few occasions, winning 3 tackles, making 4 interceptions, and blocking 2 shots which was best in each of those categories. He displayed his speed in running down Raheem Sterling late in the game when Sterling looked to be through on goal.
Matip also strode forward with the ball several times, bringing it far upfield into the attacking third when there were no options ahead of him to pass to. He is second on the team with progressive carries by distance, averaging almost 190 yards of carries per 90 minutes.
The Brazilian keeper had one nervy moment where he played a poor pass directly to a Manchester City attacker, but he was stellar other than that. He came out quickly a couple of times, once to make a sharp save, and another time to make a slide tackle to stop a break. He looked like he would have saved the second goal form Kevin de Bruyne had it not deflected off of Joel Matip.
Milner had done an outstanding job filling in at right back in the last two games. Today, however, he was targeted frequently by Manchester City, and put himself and his team in danger on more than one occasion. Granted, Milner was left on an island defensively (more on that later), but he was befuddled by the movement of Phil Foden, which lead to quite a few chances in the first half. Milner took a yellow card for a tactical foul on Foden, but struggled to walk the tightrope the rest of the game. He could easily have been whistled for a foul just outside the box, and looked like he very well could have been given a second yellow for a lunging challenge on the sideline.
Liverpool’s captain struggled at times today, and uncharacteristically gave possession away in the middle of the pitch. His passing was also off, completing under 72% of his passes.
Fabinho seemed a little off with his positioning at times, especially in the first half as there were big gaps to his right. His biggest gaffe, however, was not getting the ball out of his feet fast enough with a wide open net in front of him for a potential game winner. Instead, Rodri had just enough time to get across and block the shot that seemed destined to give Liverpool all of the points.
Jurgen Klopp always likes to add in little wrinkles to his set up. Against Manchester City, Diogo Jota was started as the central striker in favor of Roberto Firmino. Jota was given free reign to float in and out of spaces, looking to get onto the end of moves in the box.
To help occupy the half spaces between the defense and midfield that Firmino usually takes up, Jordan Henderson tucked further inside than we are used to seeing. That meant James Milner was left more isolated on the right flank, and that space was exploited by the passing of Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva to find the clever runs of Phil Foden in the first half.
In the second half, Jordan Henderson was dropped into a deeper role to provide more support for Milner. This helped solidify that side of the field, and overall gave Liverpool a much more cohesive feel.
What Happens Next
Liverpool won’t have time to dwell on the result as players will immediately head out for international duty. When Liverpool return to play, they will face a reeling Watford side that just had their manager sacked. Unfortunately for Liverpool, they will be the early game on Saturday, October 16. Their two Brazilian players who were called up, Fabinho and Allison, will have a game on the evening of Friday, October 15, so they will not be available unless they get released from national team duty early.