Manchester City hosted Liverpool on Thursday night knowing only a win would give them a realistic chance in the Premier League title race.
In a frantic opening, City pressed and harassed Liverpool in possession, with Jurgen Klopp’s men misplacing a number of passes and looking incredibly nervous.
City’s press eventually subsided and Liverpool managed to get a foot on the ball, slicing through the Citizen’s back line with some slick play between Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. The Senegal international beat the onrushing Ederson before the ball hit the post, with John Stones hitting the ball into his Brazilian ‘keeper before swiping the ball clear off the line.
That miss proved costly for Liverpool as Bernardo Silva played Sergio Aguero in behind Dejan Lovren after 40 minutes, with the Argentine marksman slamming the ball left-footed past Alisson at his near post to put Pep Guardiola’s men 1-0 up at halftime.
City struggled to capitalise on their lead early in the second half and found themselves back level after some great play from Liverpool’s full-backs allowed Roberto Firmino to head into an empty net just after the hour mark.
However, Leroy Sane capped off a fine performance by grabbing a winner for City with a powerful, precise finish via the far post after 72 minutes, having been found by Raheem Sterling drifting into a central position.
Here is how every player rated as Manchester City beat Liverpool 2-1 in a game of immense quality.
Had some very hairy moments when coming to claim crosses, showing poor communication with his defence. Made up for it, however, with a series of match-saving tackles as Liverpool piled on the pressure in the second half. Both sides of Ederson were on show on Thursday.
Aymeric Laporte – 7/10
Had a nervous start in his less-preferred left-back role but grew into the game as it went on, gathering his composure on the ball. Looked far more solid in that position than the likes of Delph and Zinchenko have, too.
Danilo – 5/10
Nowhere to be seen as Alexander-Arnold switched play to Andrew Robertson for Liverpool’s goal. Also looked very tense in possession, often knocking the ball out of play when under the slightest bit of pressure.
John Stones – 8/10
Played Kompany into trouble with a poor pass in the first half, but that was literally his only mistake. Calm in possession, measured in the tackle and authoritative with his passing, John Stones once again proved that on his day, he is one of the best ball-playing centre-backs in the country.
Vincent Kompany – 6/10
His ball-watching allowed Firmino to pull free and bring Liverpool level in the second half, ruining what was an otherwise solid display from the City stalwart. Was brought off looking quite tired late on – a smart move from Guardiola with Kompany already booked.
Fernandinho – 9/10
What a performance from Fernandinho. His effect on this team simply cannot be understated and Thursday night was a prime example; the Brazilian broke up almost every single Liverpool counter-attack or spell of possession, while his passing from deep got City in behind the opposition defence on multiple occasions. A true man-of-the-match performance.
Bernardo Silva – 9/10
We know Bernardo Silva is an unbelievable footballer, which he showed again on Thursday grabbing an assist for Aguero’s opener. However, his work rate this season has been unbelievable and rumour has it that Pep Guardiola is still on the pitch trying to find a blade of grass that his Portuguese sensation missed against Liverpool. Pivotal to City’s press in this massive clash.
David Silva – 6/10
Lasted 65 minutes before being replaced by Ilkay Gundogan as Guardiola tried to re-assert City’s midfield dominance. Although this wasn’t David Silva’s most decisive night, the Spaniard still kept himself busy, buzzing around keeping Liverpool occupied by dropping into pockets of space to recycle possession.
Leroy Sane – 8/10
His pace and ability to cut inside makes Leroy Sane almost impossible to predict and that paid dividends in the second half. After being picked out by Raheem Sterling, Sane fired a laser-accurate shot into the bottom corner, finding its way into the back of the net via the inside of the post to put City 2-1 ahead. An incredible duel between him and Trent Alexander-Arnold here.
Raheem Sterling – 7/10
Often struggled to get the better of Robertson when playing out wide, running himself into dead ends time and time again. Dipped into central areas at times in the second half to much greater effect, getting himself an assist via this route when he set Leroy Sane away for City’s second goal. Did eventually get the better of Robertson with a lightning-fast counter-attack in the final 10 minutes.
Sergio Aguero – 8/10
Haunted Liverpool at the Etihad once again, opening the scoring with a thunderbolt at Alisson’s near post in the first half. On the ball or off it, that didn’t matter to Aguero on Thursday as he caused Liverpool, and Dejan Lovren in particular, no end of trouble with his energy and endeavour.
Ilkay Gundogan (65 minutes for David Silva) – 6/10 – Added more battling quality to City’s midfield to re-assert their dominance after Fabinho initially helped stabilise Liverpool.
Kyle Walker (86 minutes for Aymeric Laporte) – N/A – Brought on for Laporte late on.
Nicolas Otamendi (88 minutes for Vincent Kompany) – N/A – Replaced Kompany at the end.
Alisson – 7/10
Beat at the near post by Aguero’s opener but in fairness, it was an absolute rocket of a shot. Looked a little less composed on the ball than usual, especially in the first half, but looked more assured claiming crosses than his Brazilian counterpart at the other end.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8/10
A great outlet on the right for Liverpool and his switch of play allowed Liverpool to unlock City’s defence and briefly draw level in the second half. Had a great duel with Leroy Sane, with each player having spells of dominance over the other.
Dejan Lovren – 5/10
Rash, clumsy and slow to react, Lovren’s bark seems to be louder than his bite at the moment. Had Van Dijk running around and putting out fires all over the place at times.
Virgil van Dijk – 8/10
Another imperious performance from the Dutchman, who was kept busy by the craziness that was Dejan Lovren playing alongside him. City could have had three or four goals had it not been for his expert positioning.
Andrew Robertson – 8/10
Defended brilliantly against Raheem Sterling almost all the way through and grabbed an assist for Roberto Firmino’s equaliser with a smart cut-back from Alexander-Arnold’s switch of play. Continues to look like one of the bargains of the last couple of transfer windows.
Jordan Henderson – 4/10
The game totally passed Henderson by on Thursday with the England international barely involved. Playing against an incredibly mobile Manchester City midfield, the former Sunderland man looked totally out of place – not a captain’s performance.
James Milner – 6/10
Like the rest of the Liverpool midfield, struggled to compete with Man City’s dominance and mobility. Was hooked after 57 minutes as Jurgen Klopp introduced Fabinho to try and add some bite and competitiveness to the central area.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 6/10
Was part of a Liverpool midfield that was out-passed, out-run and out-thought at the Etihad, although he looked far more composed than Jordan Henderson and James Milner when in possession. Moved to a wide position late on when Klopp replaced Sadio Mane with Xherdan Shaqiri.
Mohamed Salah – 6/10
Only got into the game in flashes when dropping deep to pick up the ball in space in front of the City defence. Played Sadio Mane in for a great chance in the first half with some smart play, before coming within an inch of finding the rebound. Will have much more decisive nights than this.
Roberto Firmino – 7/10
Struggled to have an effect in the first half, but made his presence known in the second with the equaliser and looked far better overall after the half-time break. Had a tough night, however, against a strong City defence.
Sadio Mane – 6/10
The odd, neat interchange was interspersed between large spells of anonymity from Sadio Mane on Thursday, as the Senegalese struggled to impose himself on a big game like he so often can. Missed a great chance in the first half and was replaced by Xherdan Shaqiri when Jurgen Klopp tried to introduce more creativity into his midfield.
Fabinho (57 minutes for James Milner) – 6/10 – Initially looked to stabilise the Liverpool midfield before the introduction of Ilkay Gundogan swung things back in City’s favour.
Xherdan Shaqiri (77 minutes for Sadio Mane) – N/A – Brought on for Mane but didn’t have much of an effect.
Daniel Sturridge (86 minutes for Georginio Wijnaldum) – N/A – Thrown on late as Klopp desperately searched for an equaliser.