Football is back, baby! And while this match, with its five-goal scoreline, back and forth action and missed opportunities might be described as a classic for the neutral viewer, for Liverpool fans, it was mostly more of the frustrating same.
Manchester City were comfortably the better side on the night, imposing their game on the Reds and taking the lead on three occasions, and while the visitors weren’t without their chances, and on another night could have scored four, the feeling throughout was that City had another gear they could activate should the situation demand it.
Below, then, we dig into some of the winners, losers and narratives on the night.
Neutrals, I guess: Honestly, no Red could walk off the pitch tonight entirely satisfied with neither the game plan or its application, but if you didn’t care who won, this was probably fairly entertaining? Five goals, two quick comebacks and a bunch of big chances is the kind of stuff announcers love to bring up as the inherent magic of the game, so somebody must enjoy it, and if you hate the domestic cups and the load they add to the players’ schedules then you could be pretty happy with tonight’s outcome.
The goals were really good. The first involved a massive rotation between the right side centre-back, right-back, central midfielder and right winger, before Carvalho slotted home from the middle of the box, while the second saw Darwin Núñez humiliate Aymeric Laporte for pace before setting up Mo for a tap-in, but beyond that, this was pretty rough seen through Red eyes.
People who hate lists cos here’s one:
- The press didn’t work at all, but whether through bad planning or weak commitment is hard to say. At any rate, Liverpool didn’t get anywhere close to their opponents tonight, as the first line failed to push up high enough with great enough numbers and intensity to actually bother the ball carrier, the midfield failed to mark any central receivers, and the fullbacks were too narrow to cut out any wide outlets.
- The build-up didn’t work either, as City could freely send six players up to press, and the Reds failing to find space beyond them to play it into and break through. Feet not moving fast enough and/or into the right areas.
- We hate closing down crosses so much. All three City goals came from crosses with not a defender in sight, and it’s honestly perhaps the most frustrating thing about this team.
- James Milner was turned inside out by some 20-year old and then hurt his hamstring.
- Kelleher didn’t have a terrible game and made three very good saves from big chances, but he also conceded three goals so it’s hard to call it a banner day for the goalkeeper.
- Darwin created a goal for Mo and had four shots, including two big chances, but he also missed four shots, including two big chances. That xG slingshot just keeps loading up.
- Stefan Bajcetic is a slick eye test-passing starlet but he’s also a middling athlete and was completely overrun in midfield tonight, yanked off at halftime.
- Mo Salah. Scored a goal but otherwise hardly involved. Usually shines against City but was a non-factor tonight.
- Harvey didn’t get to do much either. Just kept out of the game entirely by Gundogan.
- Honestly this just felt exactly like every second of the season before the World Cup. The players looked slow of foot and mind, belaboredly moving across the pitch, reacting too late, then either failing to commit or overcommitting, apparently surprised at every bounce and flick and turn, constantly making the wrong choice and getting stuck in no man’s land with players running in behind.
- Whatever has been going on with the physical fitness of this Liverpool team this season does not appear to have been rectified during the six-week international break, which does not bode great for the rest of the year.