February 21, 2024

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Manchester City 1 Liverpool 1: Attacking Alexander-Arnold, 50 for Haaland, Alisson kicks

Manchester City 1 Liverpool 1: Attacking Alexander-Arnold, 50 for Haaland, Alisson kicks

The odds of a Premier League title challenger are rising after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s second-half equalizer kept Liverpool in close contact with Manchester City at the top.

City took the lead in the 27th minute when Erling Haaland scored his 50th Premier League goal in just 48 games, making it to the mark 17 games faster than any other player.

Liverpool, watched from the stands by Luis Diaz’s father who rescued him, equalized with a brilliant goal from Trent Alexander-Arnold to keep their lead at the top at one point.

The match ended in a row between Darwin Nunez and Pep Guardiola, but it was a rare flashpoint in an otherwise quiet match.

Here Michael Cox, Oliver Kay, Greg Evans and Jay Harris analyze the match.

Manchester City faces a real challenge for the title

This was a brilliant game rather than a classic of the kind we’ve seen between these teams in the past – and thanks to Alexander-Arnold’s late equaliser, it was a remarkable result that heightened expectations of a proper title race in the Premier League.

Liverpool look much stronger than last season, driven by a much-needed midfield rebuild. This was a serious test of their credentials, and despite some anxious moments over the course of the afternoon, including a Haaland header that sailed across the face of Alisson’s goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time, they will return to Merseyside bravely. Tie 1-1.

Manchester City remain at the top of the table, one point behind Liverpool, but Arsenal can reclaim top spot if they beat Brentford this evening. It feels like one of those seasons where the lead can change on a regular basis and both Arsenal and now Liverpool have shown in their matches against the champions that they have the ability to challenge for the title.

This series of matches has always looked difficult for Manchester City, and after drawing with Chelsea (4-4) and Liverpool (1-1), they face Tottenham Hotspur at home and Aston Villa away. They remain favorites to retain their title, but this was the second successive match in which they dropped points from a winning position. And if this is a proper title race, Liverpool clearly want to be part of it.

Oliver Kay

Alexander-Arnold shows why Liverpool are pushing him forward

It may have felt like Trent Alexander-Arnold’s main task was to stop tricky winger Jeremy Doku, but Klopp wants more from his key player these days.

In a hybrid role, where he combines duty as a right-back with duties in central midfield, Alexander-Arnold should be a world-class player in two positions.

It was fitting that his impressive finish earned Liverpool a well-deserved point, as he showcased his qualities on both ends of the pitch.

After heroic defending to keep City at bay, Liverpool raced to the other end and found the benefit of having Alexander-Arnold in the forward positions.

He drifted into the box to increase the attackers’ numbers, collected Mohamed Salah’s pass, one-touched forward and then neatly converted it past Ederson.

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It is these timely contributions that will determine his success in his new role, one in which he plays for both Liverpool and England. Not only does he have to make an impact in attack, he also has to perform well in defence, and in the biggest test of the season, he stepped up, winning the most times (nine) of any Liverpool player.

Greg Evans

Alisson’s poor kick beyond Haaland’s goal – and it could have been worse

Alisson was guilty in two different ways for conceding Haaland’s opener. Not only did he let the ball squirm under his hand, he gave the ball away cheaply in the first place, trying to throw a long ball up the pitch but cutting it off in the air. City took full advantage of Liverpool’s willingness to run forward on the counter-attack, breaking them down with ease.

Even before that, Alisson twice looked nervous on the ball. 10 minutes later, he passed straight to Phil Foden when Liverpool were trying to play out from the back (shortest black arrow below). Foden seemed so surprised by the situation that he fired at the Brazilian.

Eight minutes later, there was a nervous moment when Haaland almost tackled Alisson as the Liverpool goalkeeper took too long on the ball (long yellow arrow across his goal).

Alisson’s passes in the first half – the Black Arrows are unsuccessful

The three mistakes were all different. One was about not being quick enough, the other was mistaking a short pass, and the fatal error was arguably the smallest of the three, as it at least gave City the ball closer to the halfway line rather than putting them in a more dangerous position. But it was an unusually erratic performance from Liverpool’s No.1, who was also somewhat fortunate that the referee awarded a free-kick and disallowed Ruben Dias’ goal after Alisson failed to convert a corner under relatively little pressure from Manuel Akanji.

By the end of the match, it was clear that he was suffering from a leg injury.

Baker was ruled to have been fouled (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Michael Cox

Haaland broke the record with 50 goals

Haaland reaching 50 goals in just 48 games means he has broken the current record for the fastest goal in a half-century in an astonishing 17 games. If he had not scored against Liverpool, he would have had until around mid-March to score the only goal needed to break the record.

The record had been held since March 1995 by Manchester United’s Andy Cole, whose 50th goal came in 65 matches – the Englishman reached the mark by scoring five goals against Ipswich Town.

Kevin Phillips was the second fastest of these players (behind Haaland), who scored 25 goals, but he ranked tenth on the list.

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Here are the paths of the 10 fastest players to score 50 goals in the Premier League. Haaland has been at the forefront almost from the start and his sensational debut season has left little doubt that he will break Cole’s record.

The unpredictable Nunez (again)

There have been moments this season where Nunez has looked like he might be settling into a groove, but he is still inconsistent. While Haaland is machine-like in his efficiency in front of goal, Nunez oscillates between the sublime and the ridiculous – not just within the same match but sometimes within the same move.

Opportunities against Manchester City are rare, so ruthlessness and composure are essential. We’ve seen these qualities from Núñez at times this season, most notably away to Newcastle United, but not reliably enough.

He was put through by Dominik Szoboszlai in the 17th minute, but a bad touch saw him closed down by Dias. Shortly afterwards, he mistimed his run and it ended up being called offside when Liverpool again had the chance to clear him. He threatened in the second half from a pass from Salah, but despite Ederson blocking the ball, the shot seemed to be heading towards the side netting.

He kept Manchester City’s defenders busy throughout, but at times still looked out of place in an attack previously built around the versatility of Roberto Firmino.

There is a widespread assumption that at some point things will fall into place and Nunes will become a world-class player, but that is not always easy to believe. This unpredictability seems to be inherent.

Oliver Kay

Silva steps in for De Bruyne

Bernardo Silva may not be the best footballer in the Premier League, but he may be the most complete player.

Pep Guardiola has used him almost everywhere in recent seasons, from left-back to centre-forward, and Silva was playing in central midfield here doing what he does best – controlling the game. He comfortably received passes in tight spaces and played some penetrating passes in attack.

But what Silva did more than anything else was drift left and take advantage of the huge space between Salah, who rarely drops back, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was interested in Jeremy Doku and also tasked with drifting into midfield. Overall, Silva went without any signs on that side, whether he was overlapping or making a run into the channel.

In this regard, Silva essentially plays the role of Kevin De Bruyne, who shines when he does something similar from the opposite flank. Julian Alvarez is De Bruyne’s direct replacement in terms of position, but Silva is ahead in terms of role.

Michael Cox

Kaji’s early game matched Klopp’s expectations, but there were other reasons

Before the international break, Jurgen Klopp expressed his dislike for the 12:30pm kick-off and was concerned that it would affect the quality of this match. The match was certainly cagey throughout, unlike previous encounters between these teams.

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However, that may have been by design. Manchester City’s 4-4 draw with Chelsea two weeks ago was frenetic and chaotic. Guardiola’s side showed much greater control over Liverpool and limited the number of chances created by their opponents. On the few occasions when Liverpool opened up space for Manchester City on the counter-attack, Nunez was often guilty of making the wrong decision. Liverpool’s xG was just 0.55, the lowest Liverpool have recorded in the top flight this season.

There are similarities between this match and Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Manchester City last month as both relied on individual errors. Gabriel Martinelli scored for Arsenal with a sloppy goal that took a wild deflection off Nathan Ake, while Alisson’s errant kick led to Haaland’s goal. So far, the matches between the title contenders this season have been more like complex chess matches than exciting heavyweight boxing battles.

Even Alexander-Arnold’s equalizer in the 80th minute did not change anything. Instead of trying to win at the Etihad Stadium for the first time since November 2015, Klopp replaced Nunez and McAllister with Harvey Elliott and Wataru Endo. The focus was on sticking to a point and not getting hung up on getting out of three. Maybe Klopp had a point about kick-off times after all…

Jay Harris

Few Jota touches

Diogo Jota has scored in four of his last six appearances for Liverpool and has scored in two before this weekend.

However, at the Etihad Stadium, it was a different story as he formed a forlorn figure at the top. It seemed out of sight and out of mind for long periods as the Portuguese striker was left stranded, unable to get on the ball and wreak his usual havoc.

Moments of action were few and far between, making life easy for Kyle Walker, the City right-back tasked with keeping him calm.

There were no clear signs of chemistry growing with Nunez either, and by the time he was substituted in the 53rd minute, Jota had left the field as the most ineffective player on the pitch, with the fewest touches (12).

The 90 minutes he played against Liechtenstein on Thursday night may have played a role in his performance.

What’s next for Manchester City?

Tuesday 28 November: RB Leipzig (home), Champions League 8pm GMT, 5pm ET

City has already qualified for the knockout rounds after four matches, but a win or draw will guarantee their place at the top of Group G.

Sunday 3 December: Tottenham (H), Premier League, 4.30pm GMT, 11.30am ET

What’s next for Liverpool?

Thursday 30 November: LASK (H), Europa League, 8pm GMT, 3pm ET

Liverpool lead Group E by two points and could strengthen their place in the knockout stages if they win.

Sunday 3 December: Fulham (H), Premier League, 2pm GMT, 9am ET

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(Top Image: Sean Botterill/Getty Images)