Alright, let’s gets this out of the way. We lost.
There is something to be said for the idea that one team today was fully present, whereas the other was a little more relaxed. City most certainly cared more. You might say it’s a reflection of their manager; Pep always seems like he has something to prove. You might also suggest that Liverpool’s distracted performance was a reflection of theirs, who can be so endearingly human you sometimes forget just how exceptional he is; Klopp’s interest was in winning the title, not in records or streaks, and he has made that plenty clear.
And in that I find a hint of criticism. He must have known that his team would be liable to lose focus, after being crowned champions last week. This was the right time to start with a different set of players, and put on the pitch the ones who are hungry for game time, who need to show what they can bring to the table. City were bound to be sharp, even angry, especially after being forced to give Liverpool a (for me tear-inducing) guard of honor on their home turf. The Reds needed some fire to match that, and superhuman as their season has been, they are still only human.
City clearly meant business. For about twenty minutes at the start, the Reds made a showing of it, with Salah coming closest by pinging the post after a lovely effort. Then came Sterling’s dubious penalty, easily converted by De Bruyne, and Liverpool came apart. The Citizens sensed it, and started inviting more pressure, trusting that someone in the opposition is going to mess it up before it gets too dangerous. More often than not, that someone was Sadio Mane, who could have easily scored two or even three goals were his head in the game. But it wasn’t, and neither were Trent’s or Joe’s or Bobby’s. Instead we were treated to what was admittedly a gorgeous, almost outrageous display of counterattacking football and clinical finishing. As a Red, it was painful to watch, but as a football fan, it was glorious.
It ended up as a well-earned drubbing, and in the process, City were also saying “see ya next season”. They are right to issue the challenge, of course, but had this game actually meant anything except pride, and mostly for one side, the final scoreline would likely have been very different.
The game could have ultimately ended even worse. It actually did when Mahrez scored on the last touch of the game, but VAR decided for some reason that finally, it was the right time to intervene, and chalked it off. Picking a man of the match when your team loses, especially this heavily, is a little difficult for me, because I spend the entire game hating on the opposition, and to pick one of them triggers a gag reflex. That in this game it was so clearly the man we love to diss, ugly duckling-turned-swan, former Red Raheem Sterling, makes that taste a little more bitter, but he’s earned it.
So… see ya next season, I suppose. After all, it’s not too far away.