A Tale of Two Halves
Since 1982, the unstoppable Manchester City have only won once at Anfield; and Tuesday night proved that stat will remain until further notice. Liverpool exhibited earlier in the season that their relentless pressing could emit chaos in a City defence which has been close to watertight this season. Liverpool managed to disrupt the harmonious City backline, while also taking their chances extremely efficiently, with Mark Lawrenson describing the Liverpool front line as a “swarm of bees”. With goals from Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Mane, the Reds could not have asked for a better first half. Nonetheless, the job is never complete when you are playing a side which has scored 124 goals this season, the situation was made even worse for Klopp’s side when Mo Salah was taken off due to (hopefully) a small injury. However, this current Liverpool side showed that they were made of stronger stuff than the media had labelled them earlier this season and contained City throughout the second half without allowing them having a shot on target for the entire 90 minutes.
The events before the game cannot go unnoticed, as they represent a precursor to the atmosphere which would envelop Anfield. The events to which I refer are the attacks on the Manchester City bus from Liverpool fans; bottles of beer were thrown and flares were ignited as Manchester City arrived at Anfield. The attack caused the Manchester City bus being undrivable. UEFA Control, Ethics, and Disciplinary body have stated that Liverpool fans have encroached on four laws of safety, and a punishment will be issued on the 31st of May. This marred the occasion and cannot be condoned.
On the pitch, Liverpool, Klopp and certain defenders, in particular, have been subjected to some disgusting abuse this season from the media and Liverpool fans themselves. Lovren, for example, received death threats earlier this season from Liverpool fans after his performance at Wembley against Tottenham Hotspur. Even though the Red fans then voted him player of the month as a sign of loyalty, he still seems the first to be blamed when something goes wrong at the back. He spoke last week how the media is so quick to jump on him after he makes one mistake, but in games like the 5-0 thrashing against Porto his performance is not even mentioned. Lovren has made mistakes this season but it needs to be realised playing the way Klopp wishes through ‘gegenpressing’ this will leave the centre backs vulnerable to attack. Credit for the Manchester City match certainly has to be given to Virgil Van Dijk, as he gave composure to that defence. The rest of the defence against City comprised of £8m left back, Andy Robertson, ‘calamity ridden’ Dejan Lovren, and a youth prospect right back in Alexander Arnold-Trent. To put that in perspective, the Liverpool defence sums to £103m – most of which from one player – whereas the City defence comes to a cool £170m, a few quality players’ worth ahead of Liverpool.
Whilst the win was comprehensive, this tie was at Anfield and Guardiola has reassured City fans that this leg is not over. City will have the home advantage in the second leg and, furthermore, Liverpool will be without Henderson through suspension and most likely Emre Can through injury. The other possibility is that Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s main threat, will be out injured too. Tuesday night will certainly be an interesting tie.
By Owen Ellicott