An unchanged lineup for the Tricky Reds today, with Jürgen keeping faith with the same starting eleven that thrashed Porto midweek. Millie continued at right back and Bobby started on the bench, despite his brace of goals midweek.
The Reds started brightly, playing with a bright- if not electrifying- tempo and passing the ball around well. This only lasted about ten minutes though and City soon began to not only gain a foothold in the match but come to dominate it.
Silva picked Henderson’s pocket in the twentieth minute, evaded our entire midfield and released Foden down City’s left; fortunately, Alisson spread himself well to block. Our bearded Brazilian had earlier given the ball away with a poor clearance but Jesus wasn’t able to capitalise.
Cancelo played in De Bruyne but the Belgian slashed his shot wide; Dias was booked for hauling down Jota as the home side tried to launch a rare counter attack. Foden went down in the box after a clumsy challenge from Milner; after a brief VAR check, no penalty was confirmed. The initial contact had been fractionally outside the box but I’ve certainly seen them given.
De Bruyne sent a diving header o er when unmarked at the far post then had a shot on the turn blocked by the excellent Matip; Virgil then got in the way of another shot from the busy Belgian.
Jesus slid a brilliant pass towards the underlapping Walker in the area. The right back tried to cut it back to Grealish, but Matip stepped across to make an important interception. Milner was booked seconds later as he stopped Foden from breaking.
Ederson then played a spectacular pass to Foden, perfectly flighted to fall in the young attacker’s path, but Alisson again did well.
As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, it had been a half dominated by the visitors, after a slow start, and, quite frankly, the Reds were lucky to go in level.
The halftime Haartrockner treatment clearly had the desired effect, as the Reds started the second stanza far more briskly. Jota started running at the heart of the City defence and the visitors were on the back foot. Cancelo was booked for tripping Milner and the Portuguese full back was then easily beaten by Salah. Mo played a beautifully weighted pass to Mané, who had run off the back shoulder of Dias, and Sadio struck it first time past the onrushing Ederson. 1-0 to the good guys in the 59th minute.
The home side were now in the ascendancy and Mo had a free kick deflected wide off the wall, while a couple of other promising breaks broke down around the edge of the box.
But then Jesus cut in from the right, curled a lovely ball to the unmarked Foden on the opposite side of the penalty area and the youngster arrowed an unstoppable shot back across Alisson and into the far corner. 1-1 after 69 minutes.
Milner was lucky to stay on the pitch after tripping Bernardo Silva; it should clearly have resulted in a second yellow card for the veteran and Guardiola was fuming at the officials. Sterling immediately replaced Grealish and Jota was replaced by Firmino.
And then a moment of brilliance from Mo made it 2-1. Collecting the ball from Jon s, he beat Cancelo and Laporte before firing a right-footed shot past Ederson and in off the far post. Magical stuff. What made it even better was that Guardiola was booked for his continued remonstrations. Gomez came on for Milner.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as five minutes later Foden squared the ball from the left and it deflected to De Bruyne on the edge of the box. His first-time shot would have been saved by Alisson but took a deflection off Matip and sailed past the already committed goalkeeper. 2-2 after 81 minutes.
As we entered the last five minutes, a short free kick routine almost out the hosts in front again. Mo’s chipped delivery to the far post evaded everyone and fell to the unmarked Fabinho but Rodri somehow got back to block the bald Brazilian’s effort before it crossed the line.
Four minutes of stoppage time saw a Jesus effort charged down by Robertson and another City counter attack break down with De Bruyne’s sloppy pass.
And that was that. Given that we twice led, it feels like two points dropped but, having said that, we were pinned against the ropes in the first half and Milner was lucky not to be sent off after the break.
Next up, after another pointless international break, is a trip to Watford for the Saturday lunchtime kickoff in two weeks’ time. Our hosts will have a new manager by then, having sacked Xisco today, and may we’ll be buoyed by the fabled new manager bounce factor. We shall see.
HOTM: Torquator Tasso. Today’s rare Horse Of The Match award goes to the bright chestnut German colt, who won the one hundredth running of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris this afternoon. Only the third horse from his country to land European racing’s most prestigious prize, he was returned at the rewarding odds of 80-1. I hope that our German friends had a few euros on him.