14 January 2018

Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City

Oxlade-Chamberlain 9'
Sané 41'
Firmino 59'
Mané 62'
Salah 68'
B Silva 84'
Gundogan 90+1'

There may never have been a more Liverpool game.

It was Liverpool early in Klopp's tenure, smoking top sides with pressing and counter-attacks, saving their best for the best opposition.

It was Liverpool with Firmino, Mané, and Salah, scoring all sorts of wonderful, wonderful goals, each of them on the scoresheet.

It was Liverpool falling apart, as we've seen too often this season, coming far too close from throwing away a seeming insurmountable lead.

It was a Liverpool game where you could not take a breath. It was Liverpool, trying to kill us all.

It was emotion, every emotion. It was exactly what sport is supposed to be.

Last season, Liverpool opened the scoring in the eighth minute when hosting Manchester City at Anfield. One counter-attacking move, and then a complete negation of the game, finishing 1-0.

That never seemed likely after Oxlade-Chamberlain scored in the ninth minute today, he and Firmino combining to win possession in City's half, tearing at City's goal, and firing past Ederson from outside the box. This season's Liverpool is not last season's Liverpool.

Liverpool, unsurprisingly, kept going. As did Manchester City, because that's what this steamroller side does. But Liverpool did well to limit chances. Liverpool, buoyed by nine days' rest, kept pressing, but City kept coming through de Bruyne and Sané.

Liverpool did well to limit chances until the 41st minute. Gomez misjudges Walker's crossfield pass to Sané, under the flight of ball then wrong-side scrambling to get back, and Sané fiercely beats Karius at the near post. And we're level at halftime in a match where Liverpool had played its game and been the better side.

Ugh. Great. Now steamroller City's gonna come out and steamroller in the second half.

Well, someone steamrollered.

The half started very City. De Bruyne, Sterling, and Agüero at pace on the counter, Matip with a crucial block. Otamendi hitting the crossbar with a header from the subsequent corner.

But then Liverpool went and did Liverpool things. The good Liverpool things. Some very, very insanely good Liverpool things.

Nine minutes. Oxlade-Chamberlain throughball to Firmino, shouldering off Stones before chipping Emerson. Mané railing a shot off the post as Liverpool press from the subsequent kickoff. Salah pressing Otamendi into a giveaway then setting up Mané, a left-footed blast somehow skewed past Ederson. Ederson racing out to clear a hopeful long throughball from Salah, only to play it back to Salah, who passed it into the net from 45 yards. From the 59th to 68th minute, from 1-1 to 4-1.

That was vicious. That was Liverpool at its most potent, and we've sure seen some potency this season.

We've seen in the previous three games that conceding at 1-0 isn't the end of the world. This was the culmination of that.

We've also seen Liverpool completely lose the plot with a two- or three-goal lead against good opposition. This was nearly the culmination of that.

There was 15 minutes of almost complete comfort. From the 68th to 83rd minutes, City had all of one shot: Gundogan from distance swiftly blocked. City had all the possession, but Liverpool would still take their chances to press, somehow still with energy despite the previous exertions. The main highlight was Sterling getting hooked after picking up a yellow card, a match where Robertson kept him pocketed for the duration.

But then, Gundogan beats Milner, one-two with Agüero, into the box. Gomez makes the block, but it somehow falls absolutely perfectly for Bernardo Silva. 4-2. Six minutes plus stoppage time still to go. An absolute eternity against a side like City.

And now you have permission to tilt. Substitutions don't seem to waste enough time. Seconds take eons. City keep coming. City pass and build and shift and pass, exactly as Guardiola's molded them, exactly as they've done all season, exactly as they've done at 0-0 and 1-1 and 4-1 and now 4-2. And now it's 4-3, as Agüero gets into the box out wide and chips towards Gundogan. There are seven Liverpool players between Agüero and Gundogan in the box, with Robertson on his back side and Wijnaldum just outside the area. And Lovren mistimes his header and Gundogan chests down and stabs home and holy hell this is not happening.

Thankfully, no, it is not. But it almost did. It almost did when Milner stupidly fouled and de Bruyne sends in a wicked free kick and Agüero heads just wide but he's offside anyway and blow the whistle blow the whistle blow the whistle phew.

It was all so very Liverpool. For better and for worse. As uncomfortably usual, as wonderfully usual.

Make no mistake. As 0-5 flattered City in the reverse fixture, 4-3 flatters them here. Giving up two late goals to make us nervous – and we're always nervous – was very bad, but that was a masterclass in both gegenpressing and finishing.

Liverpool were helped by the rest between matches, especially as half that City side played in the League Cup on Wednesday. Liverpool needed the previous three comebacks for self-belief today. Liverpool finished chances that they will absolutely not take in most matches, with none of the four goals coming from a clear-cut chance.

Liverpool were really, really good, against the side that's going to win the league by a mile. Liverpool are the first side to beat City in domestic competition this season, their only loss coming in a meaningless last-group-game Champions League match. Liverpool have not lost a match in any competition since October, unbeaten in 18, and they've scored three or more in 12 of those 18.

Liverpool are insane and trying to kill us all and fun. Liverpool are really, really fun.

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