There were significant concerns in the past 48 hours about how Liverpool would do against Manchester City today. The loss in Turkey on Thursday night came in dramatic, disappointing fashion, and with the travel delay later that night Liverpool didn't get home until early Friday morning. That left one day of training to prepare for a side that had scored nine goals in their last two Premier League matches and carried two extra days of rest into an early afternoon kickoff.
And while the concerns were justified, any sustained worries had to have dissipated after the first five or ten minutes of the match, as Liverpool managed to produce one of the most energetic and effective performances of the season in the 2-1 win. Stunning goals from Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho were the standout moments, but Brendan Rodgers was quick to praise the work of the squad as a whole, hailing their ability to bounce back:
"Some of you guys will have come to our game, travelling with the press on the journey with us. And I'm sure you felt first-hand what it was like, getting back at half past four in the morning and probably not getting home until about six o'clock. To then have to prepare yourself for a game against the champions is no mean feat. To play and perform like we did today, with that intensity and work and quality, you've got to take your hat off to [the players].
"How they performed was at a real top level. I've got nothing but admiration for them because their focus was good in the game. They worked the system very well. And as the game wore on, we created more chances. We restricted Manchester City to one shot on target. The momentum and the flow and rhythm were with us in the game. I felt in particular in the second half, we started brightly and played through the system well. The players are really making the system work for us with their quality and intelligence. When you add the intensity of our pressure, we didn't really give them a moment to settle. You have to applaud my players for that because they were relentless in how they pressed the ball. To keep a team of that quality to one shot on target, in a game that they would really want to win as much as us, says everything about the spirit, character and quality of my team."
There is no hyperbole here, no manager-speak even if the quotes are largely familiar. Liverpool were at a top level, they improved as the match went on, and their pressure--particularly that of Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen, Adam Lallana, and Philippe Coutinho--was as intense as it's been all season. For periods of the match City had the upper hand, as one would expect when playing the reigning league champions, but there was no doubt as to the better side on the day, and the three points are fully deserved for Rodgers' squad.
His opening comments make that reality all the more impressive, as there were no flukes here or lucky bounces. City had their chances, Liverpool had theirs, and in between it was a captivating, high-level match. That Liverpool were able to engage in such a match with success is a tribute to their resiliency; the major players in Henderson and Coutinho were rested midweek, but for the rest of the squad the turnaround time was impossibly short, and almost to a man they met and largely exceeded expectations.
The threat of a letdown is always there, but with the focus and mentality on display today, one would expect that Liverpool will have little trouble keeping themselves grounded when Burnley visit Anfield on Wednesday.