There can be nothing better in football today than watching Liverpool and Man City have a go at each other. Their distinct philosophies, both oriented so dramatically towards the attacking end, executed on the pitch, and expressed through world class players in every position, make for a game where there is no dead time. I think I forgot to breath for minutes at a stretch throughout this spectacle.
But let us be honest here. If either team deserved to win this, it was the hosts, who should have been 4-1 up at half time. In the end the scoreline ended up the carbon copy of the reverse tie at Anfield earlier in the season. It was perhaps their innate theatrical flair that prevented City from winning, because had they done so, the air would have come rushing right out of the title race balloon. Instead, we get ourselves an incredible run-in for the next seven games, and nobody can predict where it will go. Will the Reds stumble to, say, Spurs? Will Gerrard deliver the trophy to Liverpool in the dying embers of the season at Villa Park? Who knows?
It sure as hell going to be exciting.
When City took control of the game with five minutes played, via a brilliant De Bruyne (who is my man-of-the-match, incidentally) effort, it felt like a demolition was about to ensue. Yet it didn’t take long for the ultimate poacher, Jota, to somehow be in the right place and time again to equalize. He almost made it two on a strange Ederson error a few minutes later. Then Jesus grabbed a second for his side, and it was telling that both his goal and his compatriot’s earlier were off the woodwork – Alisson really was that good, and the chief reason Liverpool still had something to play for in the second half.
The Reds indeed came storming out of the gate, and a sublime Mane finish off an even, uhh, sublimier assist from Salah gave us the final scoreline with a minute in the second half. And as impossible as it might be to tell from the stat line, the game actually picked up from there, and never stopped, not until the very last second when Mahrez could have netted a late winner.
Here is the thing: even as tersely as I described four goals above, I could easily write 3,000 words about this game and not be done with describing all that was going on. It was incessant box-to-box action, with last ditch efforts all over the pitch. Perhaps most telling was the energetic hand slap and embrace shared by Klopp and Guardiola at the end, a beautiful moment caught on camera. These two are true giants of the game, who have tons of respect for each other, and you could sense their emotions even through a TV screen. Secretly, I think they were both happy it ended this way; Pep because he keeps the marginal lead in the race, Klopp because he probably knew it was more likely to end badly for his side.
If not for the other, each one of them would win every trophy in existence most every season, and they both know it. I am just glad to be alive to watch it.
Seven more to go, and either team can slip. I suspect both of them will. Were I to be in charge of writing the script, I would go with both teams winning the next six but City slowly closing the goal differential gap, then Liverpool only drawing in their last outing while City loses to Villa in the 93rd minute, thereby allowing the Reds to win the league – on goals scored.
By one goal.
Because if it ends up that close – a title on the third tie-breaker – it would only be fitting.
What a game. What a pair of football teams.
I’m still shaking.