A very attacking lineup from Jürgen today; he must’ve read certain posts on TAN advocating starting both Bobby and the in-form Jota and others criticising his seemingly over cautious approach whenever we visit the Emptihad.
It was good to see Matip return to partner Gomez at the heart of the defence; bizarrely, it was the first time these two had ever started a game together, due to Virgil’s previously impeccable attendance record. Hendo and Gini would provide a very hardworking engine room and the front four all track back well, so I didn’t fully understand the fears some people expressed before the match about our midfield being overrun.
Bobby was almost in straight away, beating the offside trap but failing to take it around Ederson in the opening minute; Robertson’s cross from the left was just too far ahead of Salah a couple of minutes later.
There was no doubt in Craig Pawson’s mind in the eleventh minute when Walker crossed Mané in the area. Penalty, clear as day. Mo stepped up and gave the Reds an early lead their play clearly deserved.
Sadio had another chance when released by Mo midway through the first half but opted to try to find Bobby instead of going for the shot himself. Gini was then caught in possession but Alisson thwarted Sterling at the far post.
City equalised against the run of play on the half hour, with Jesus turning Trent in the box and poking De Bruyne’s pass past Alisson. VAR then awarded City a penalty when Gomez was adjudged to have handled De Bruyne’s cross. There was no attempt to handle from the defender- indeed, he was pulling his arm away- but the rules are so farcical now that it is, by the letter of the law, a penalty despite no malicious intent.
Fortunately, De Bruyne blasted wide.
Trent was then played in on the overlap by Mo but his shot was saved well by Ederson. Our number 66 then rifled a free kick over in first half stoppage time; not one of his better efforts. Another late Reds attack came to nothing, with Firmino floundering in the City box, and it was honours even at the break.
Both keepers did well to snuff out promising attacks to start the second half, before Jota failed to connect cleanly with Ederson’s attempted clearance and the home goalie fell gratefully on the ball.
Jesus missed a golden opportunity ten minutes into the second period, nodding Cancelo’s flighted cross wide when completely unmarked; Bobby blasted over soon afterwards when trying to find the top corner, while De Bruyne’s dipping shot from 20 yards also cleared the bar.
Shaqiri replaced Firmino just before the hour; the Brazilian still looks way short of his dazzling best. Trent then pulled up when attempting to sprint; he had to be replaced by Milner.
As the rain continued to fall, so the standard of football declined. What had been an enthralling end-to-end encounter became a litany of misplaced passes and hopeful punts, certainly not befitting the two best teams in the country.
It’s a sign of how far we have come that the home side seemed happy to settle for a point in the last ten minutes; our players had run themselves into the ground and were just waiting for the final whistle. The international break is followed by the visit of table-topping Leicester City to Anfield; a chance for us to head back to the summit of the league. At least we ended our run of three consecutive defeats at the Emptihad, I suppose.
MOTM: in order to allay @Alright_Now ‘s fears of encroaching elitism, I will nominate Will and his team at London Beer Factory for their brilliant tiramisu stout called Zia. Only £3.50 from Tesco; just buy it. It’s fucking ace.