CAN’T these two just play against each other every week?
Given that no other team in the Premier League, perhaps in world football, can count on putting a glove on them.
And given that their meetings are such high stakes and superior quality, it is a lavish treat for any lover of the game.
Well, they meet again in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley next Saturday and it would be a shock if they don’t also meet in a Champions League final in Paris on May 28th.
Sadio Mane’s equalizer in the first minute of the second half means Liverpool are still aiming for a quadruple while City remain in the hunt for a treble.
Looking at the run-ins for both clubs is almost irrelevant if you absolutely believe that on any given day both teams will beat each of the other 18 top-division clubs, home or away.
But City’s fixture list is the softer of the two, so they may just be the happier of the two sides with this result – although a ‘winner’ Raheem Sterling was ruled out by a fraction of the VAR call.
Pep Guardiola’s men led early through Kevin De Bruyne and were pushed back by Diogo Jota before Gabriel Jesus put them ahead at half-time.
So City remain a point clear with seven points to go and this will likely be one of those relentless title races, like the epic of 2019 when Liverpool finished second on a paltry 97 points.
While the rivalry between these two clubs has been an epic sporting one over the past four years, the two managers have rarely done the decent thing, adding a decent dash of malice and mind games to the mix.
This was their most significant neck-and-neck race since the beginning of this duopoly – coming so late in the season and with a two-horse race for the title established months ago.
If the pre-match was weaponized, the pace and quality supported it from the start – especially from City.
Sterling should have opened the scoring even before De Bruyne’s early goal.
A headed pass from Kyle Walker, a release ball from De Bruyne and a square pass from Jesus left the Englishman level with Alisson, but the Brazilian saved with his feet.
However, within a minute, City were ahead. Bernardo Silva’s quick thinking with a tap-and-go free-kick found De Bruyne, who circled Fabinho and saw his shot deflected off Joel Matip and the inside of the far post.
It was the Belgian’s sixth goal in as many games.
Liverpool, so used to victory, brushed away their setback and were level in the 13th minute.
Klopp’s full-backs combined brilliantly here – Andy Robertson crossed deep from the left, Trent Alexander-Arnold cut the volley back and Jota’s first shot went wide of Ederson’s body who might have done better.
Ederson had a crazy five minute and almost rolled a back pass over the goal line.
But City were soon back in full swing – their diagonals from defense were visionary and the interplay of their little men on offense was extremely cheeky.
De Bruyne turned and fired into the side netting before City regained the lead eight minutes from the break.
Cancelo’s shot deflected off the post and although the resulting corner was cleared, City’s Portugal full-back threw in a cross that left Jesus in glorious isolation and allowed him to lob his shot over Alisson from an angle.
The quality of defense was also excellent at times – a crucial interception from Robertson to take the ball off Sterling’s toes was quickly followed by Aymeric Laporte, who performed heroically to ward off Jota in the last ditch.
City had dominated much of the first half and Klopp clearly wasn’t going to put up with that.
The German sent his men off early, rockets up their butts, and within a minute they had City caught and equalized.
Mo Salah’s angled pass destroyed all of City’s defense and Mane, batting in from the left, swept him home for the first time to celebrate his 30th birthday with a swing.
Unusually cowed and occasionally rocky before the break, Klopp’s men continued to show the greater intention.
But then City thought they had regained the lead in the 63rd minute when Sterling drilled past Alisson only for VAR to decide he was slightly offside when Rodri released his through ball.
Salah intervened and had a shot that was deflected wide from Laporte – the corner somehow not being awarded.
Then, as Jesus shot into the side netting when he should have been centred, a revealing moment in the technical section where both Guardiola and Klopp made their conkers and gesticulated wildly in a choreographed display of the futility of demanding absolute football perfection.
Klopp sent on Luis Diaz, Guardiola fired Riyad Mahrez – and Liverpool’s manic pressing forced an increasing number of City errors.
Guardiola, increasingly agitated, then gave Cancelo what looks like a rough Turkish massage when the full-back throws in.
Mahrez hit the post from a long-range free-kick, then threw himself over when De Bruyne released him with the final attack of the game.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/18225098/man-city-liverpool-de-bruyne-jota-jesus-mane/ Guardiola’s team on pole in title race after Etihad thriller vs rivals