July 18th , 2024


Phinehas Acquah

7 months ago


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7 months ago

Manchester City and Liverpool have consistently served up matches that were a full-on football feast since they became the two pre-eminent Premier League superpowers under managers Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

This was not one of them.

Whether it was the early start, heavy legs from international duty or just simply footballers actually being human, this was as close to ordinary, routine and flat as it has ever been from these two sides.

Even the crowd inside Etihad Stadium did not seem to be feeling it, Manchester City boss Guardiola turning to the home supporters and pleading for more noise in the second half in this uncharacteristically quiet atmosphere.

City have a tough act to follow from their Treble of the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup last season, with the Uefa Super Cup already added this term, but they took the chance to remind their fans (and perhaps more pointedly Liverpool's) of those stellar achievements with four flags laid out across the turf before kick-off.

It was the big build-up to what has become the Premier League's most high-profile game.

And yet this all felt so low-key, apart from a final surge when City tried to snatch back the lead given to them by Erling Haaland - the fastest player to reach 50 Premier League goals, in 48 games - but eroded by Trent Alexander-Arnold's late equaliser.

§  Alexander-Arnold rescues Liverpool draw at Man City

City were superior to Liverpool and should have won, but perhaps it is another hint that the Premier League may not be the formality many expect this season - although all the smart money should still go on Guardiola's side, especially once they have Kevin de Bruyne back.

As he pointed out, City's players remain hungry and the best side in Europe. In Jeremy Doku, they have made a thrilling acquisition with his pace and direct running, although it was a blow to lose Jack Grealish to illness.

There may just be hope for others in results such as the loss at Arsenal and draws at Chelsea and at home to Liverpool.

And those hoping to take City's crown away will need all the help they can get as this was the first time City had not won at home in 24 games.

Liverpool are one of those teams hoping to cash in on any sign of City slips but realistically they are a team in transition with new signings to integrate. They may even have surprised themselves with the start they have made this season.

Klopp's side are certainly not making life easy for themselves. They have conceded the opening goal in six consecutive away Premier League games for the first time since November 2006 and this is their first season without a clean sheet in their opening seven away Premier League games since 2004-05.

One thing that is not in question is that Klopp's "Liverpool reloaded" - his description - have got bags of character and, even when not at their best, they still possess a permanent air of menace that makes them dangerous if you do not put them away when you have the chance. As City discovered.

They hung in, showed resilience and got their reward when Alexander-Arnold compensated for a difficult afternoon defensively in the face of the relentless Doku by showing great technique for the equaliser.

Liverpool keeper Alisson was at the heart of many of their problems with poor kicking but still contributed important saves while City could have grabbed victory in the final seconds when Haaland's header drifted inches wide of the far post.

There were still moments of quality, especially in the way City strung passes together to work openings and Doku's constant probing, but it is simply too much to expect for every meeting between this pair to be a classic.

City's air of superiority is such that any challengers will clutch at the thinnest straw they are offered and, while it is a flimsy offering, two draws in succession might be about the best they can get.

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Phinehas Acquah

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