Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City battle back to keep Liverpool in check

Man City 1 Liverpool 1

By Miguel Delaney

In another season, or maybe a different set of circumstances, this 1-1 draw at the Etihad would have had a huge bearing on the title race.

As it was, it was a hugely entertaining match, but one that didn't really change or tell us too much about either team.

Liverpool again got a respectable result against one of the top six, Manchester City showed resilience and probably shaded the game in terms of performance, and both still look good for a Champions League place. Yet, as even as it all ended, it was a very uneven game in terms of emotions.

There was an awful lot of anger, amid some gloriously furious football, and one moment of incredulity as Adam Lallana produced possibly the miss of the season - if not the decade.

Both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp had moments of aggravation with the officials, but it was James Milner who probably bore the brunt of the anger, as he was repeatedly booed by the home fans in an apparent response to comments he made about why he left and the ongoing acrimony about how his opposite number-seven Raheem Sterling left Anfield. It was all too predictable that he would score a spot-kick, and just as predictable that the prolific Sergio Aguero would respond to that and his series of misses against Monaco in midweek with a key goal.

It was just a surprise that there weren't more goals, and maybe more penalties as most of the first half seemed to be dominated by calls for them.

The first came on 24 minutes when referee Referee Michael Oliver waved away shouts for a spot kick for Sadio Mane after he went down under a challenge from Nicolas Otamendi when a one-on-one presented itself. Oliver said no again moments later when Georginio Wijnaldum went down as Yaya Toure dived in rashly.

Then, 10 minutes later, it was City's turn, when Milner appeared to impede - of course - Raheem Sterling.

The first half ended with Willy Cavallero's goal under siege, as he pulled off a brilliant save from an Lallana volley, before John Stones probably did even better to get across and deny Joel Matip with a superb interception.

When Roberto Firmino found himself in a similar position just minutes later, Gael Clichy clumsily bundled him over and Oliver finally pointed to the spot. Milner wasn't going to miss, especially given all the boos and commotion around him.

Firmino then had the chance to put the game beyond City with a one-on-one, but Cavallero did well to divert his effort.

City were jolted back into life, and began to play some of the luscious football of the first half.

A sharp Aguero finally produced on 69 minutes, Kevin De Bruyne drove the ball sharply into the area, and the Argentine met it with the perfect finish. He should maybe have made it 2-1 on 75 minutes, but lost his footing in the box, before De Bruyne hit the post from the breaking ball.

Lallana was then bamboozled by the quality of a Liverpool move. After Wijnaldum deftly lifted the ball over the top for Firmino to help it on, Lallana somehow completely miskicked with the goal at his mercy.

It was still City who will probably rue the

closing stages most, as Sterling was denied having outfoxed Simon Mignolet in a one-on-one, and Aguero blazed over.

No-one could quite get the better of the game, and it means that there is still no manager to have twice got the better of Guardiola in a single league season.

Klopp had that chance here but, like some of his players, squandered a wonderful opportunity.

MAN CITY: Caballero, Fernandinho, Stones, Otamendi, Clichy, Toure (Sagna, 65 mins), Sterling, De Bruyne, Silva, Sane (Fernando, 83 mins), Aguero. Unused subs: Bravo, Nolito, Kolarov, Iheanacho, Garcia

LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Klavan, Milner, Lallana, Can, Wijnaldum, Mane, Firmino (Lucas, 89 mins), Coutinho (Origi, 73 mins). Unused subs: Karius, Lovren, Moreno, Woodburn, Alexander-Arnold.

Referee: Michael Oliver

Man of the Match: Georginio Wijnaldum

Match rating: 7/10

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