Not surprisingly, when considering the contestants, the first half of this match was everything a football fan could ever hope for. Plenty of opportunities, frenetic pace, and top quality all around. Mo Salah confidently converted a penalty, and Gabriel Jesus scored a truly lovely goal, but in reality, it was the two Brazilian keepers who kept things even. That the team came off the pitch at the break at one apiece felt right. So much so, in fact, that Kevin De Bruyne’s innate sense of fairness made sure of it, as he sent his penalty kick wide of the post following another utterly ridiculous VAR handball call against Liverpool and Joe Gomez.
Or, I suppose, it might have been due to the extremely wet conditions.
The second half saw a drop in pace and intensity, as would be expected due to the current schedule, being a sort of December in November. Alexander-Arnold was forced off the field after what we can only hope is a minor strain, and old man Milner did an admirable job replacing him, as always. He is a true marvel, this Milner. Even so, with both teams being so dangerous up front, the last ten minutes were still riveting and tense. Either side could have easily scored a late winner. For the Reds, emerging out of the Etihad in this moment with a draw is a good result. For City, who are still struggling to put everything together again this season, it probably is as well.
The addition of Diogo Jota to the Liverpool squad is definitely shaking things up. On balance, it seems that the team is benefiting, but for one glaring defect: Bobby Firmino’s confidence. It’s not that he can’t score; after all, he does so regularly enough for his national team, where he plays in a somewhat different role. But Jota’s admittedly explosive introduction to this Liverpool side seems to have had a slightly negative impact on his more senior teammate. Klopp’s choice in this game to put all four frontmen up from the first minute was an interesting one, and certainly made Liverpool look even more dangerous. It had the Reds playing a 4-2-4 arrangement on attack that, once the kinks are worked out, is bound to give many a less capable defence than City’s cluster migraines.
But maybe the best news of all from Liverpool’s perspective is simply that Joel Matip is back. His partnership with Joe Gomez is a good one, and worked well today against a team that produces plenty of chance in any given game. Their decision making was generally spot-on, and they worked well together with Alisson and the fullbacks to minimize the damage from the irresistible creativity of Guardiola’s side. They had a lot to do with this game ending a draw, and my man of the match goes to Gomez, who never allowed himself to get caught awkwardly, and didn’t put a foot wrong the entire game.
Ridiculous penalty call aside, he didn’t put a hand wrong either.
A sigh of relief, then, with the hope that Trent’s knock is a very minor one. It sure is nice to know that this one particular game is now over for the season.