There are so many titles that would be appropriate for this game. Clash of the titans. A game of two halves. A clash of two halves, perhaps? But in the end, as I sit here trying to compose this column, realizing that my heartbeat is still trying to settle back to normal, there really is only one way to describe what we just saw. This game of football was utterly, mindblowingly, I-would-have-given-my-eye-teeth-to-be-there-in-person breathtaking.
You simply won’t see too many games like this in a lifetime of watching football.
Let me continue with this: the result was right and fair. Either team could have won, and had one of them done so, it would have been completely fair as well. City might feel aggrieved about Millie’s lucky escape from a second yellow, and Liverpool in turn might feel that Jesus created an offside on City’s second goal. Ultimately the game itself was served by the on-pitch decisions made by Paul Tierney, and thankfully, VAR chose not to ruin it.
Had either of these teams played this game at this intensity level against pretty much any other team in the premier league, it would have likely ended with a lopsided scoreline. The Citizens easily played to the level of some of their early-season five and six star performances, and the Reds were somewhat unlucky not to notch a seventh game in a row with at least three. Poor Fabinho is probably still trying to figure out where the heck Rodri came out of to stop a certain third from meeting the back of Ederson’s net. Had that ball fallen to the likes of Salah, Jones, or even Robbo, all of whom are comfortable hitting it on the first touch with their left, the streak would not have been broken.
Speaking of Salah, what a performance from him. That assist to Mane came on top of a play that was all Salah, all the way, as he did to City what Bernardo did to Liverpool in the first half, only this time it ended with a goal thanks to Mane’s extremely composed finish. This man Salah is on fire right now, and was clearly not done. The second goal was downright remarkable, especially coming as it was off the Egyptian’s weaker foot. Ederson is no piker, my friends, and what Salah did to the City defense to set himself up is worth watching over and over in slo-mo; watch and admire, because there simply aren’t many players in the world who could replicate it. At this rate, Salah may well end up threatening his own records from that insane first full season with the Reds.
If he does, and if Liverpool nabs either the league title or the champions league trophy – or both – then I bet you he will finally get that Ballon d’Or.
At the other end, Phil Foden again produced a world-class performance. The lad likes to play against Liverpool, and as much as it gave me ulcers as a fan, I could not help but enjoy watching him tormenting our defense. Foden is such a gem of a footballer that he transcends rivalries. His goal was extremely well taken, but besides that, he was the chief reason City were so threatening. In the context of his showcase display and how Pep loaded up on Milner, the old man ended up doing a reasonable job, but it might have ended up quite differently if this was an away game, or with a different ref.
All of the scoring action came in that second half, but that isn’t to say that the first wasn’t as electric. It’s just that Liverpool was lucky to escape it without conceding, and it’s hard for me to write about it as a result. Still, the dams were not breached, and much of that was due to my man-of-the-match, Joel Matip. The Cameroonian was the real hero of this game, and at times held the fort all by his lone self, like the magic Spearman vs. a Tank Army in Civilization (the video game). If Matip stays healthy, and keeps his form, then he is going to give Salah a run for his money for best of the season in May.
What a game this was.
I’m just sad it’s over.