Goalscorers: Sergio Aguero 40, Roberto Firmino 64, Leroy Sane 72
Manchester City: Ederson, Danilo, Aymeric Laporte (Kyle Walker 86), Vincent Kompany (Nicolas Otamendi 88), John Stones, Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva, David Silva (Ilkay Gundogan 65), Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero
Liverpool FC: Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren, Andrew Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson, James Milner (Fabinho 57), Georginio Wijnaldum (Daniel Sturridge 86), Sadio Mane (Xherdan Shaqiri 77), Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah
Referee: Anthony Taylor, Attendance: 54,511
At the start of 2019, Liverpool FC were a serious threat to Manchester City’s Premier League crown. Two defeats for City during the festive period had seen Jurgen Klopp’s unbeaten Reds open up a seven-point lead at the top of the table. Win at the Etihad and Pep Guardiola’s champions would effectively be giving up their crown to the Merseysiders at the end of the season. The Citizens weren’t going to give up the title without a fight in a contest that showed how far these two teams had broken away from the opposition.
It was Liverpool who created the best early moment from a frantic opening 20 minutes and they were denied from taking the lead by millimetres. Sadio Mane managed to get into a one-on-one situation against Ederson but hit the post. As John Stones went to sweep up the danger, he kicked his clearance against his own goalkeeper. The ball span towards the goal and only some desperate last-ditch work from Stones saw him get back in-time to clear the ball away with Mohamed Salah baring down to finish.
The home side could breathe easily a few moments later when referee Anthony Taylor elected to only book returning skipper Vincent Kompany for a poorly timed tackle on Salah. Replays showed the Belgian was slightly fortunate to escape with just a caution for his tackle.
As the half grew on though, Manchester City started to look the more threatening side, with Sergio Aguero’s movement giving Dejan Lovren problems. The Croatian was booked when caught out briefly by Aguero’s ability to find space and it played a part in the Argentine scoring the opening goal of this gruelling battle. Five minutes before the interval, Aguero’s sharpness got him infront of Lovren before firing past Alisson from the tightest of angles. It kept his exceptional run going of scoring in all seven Premier League home fixtures against Liverpool as a Manchester City player.
Liverpool needed to find some extra cutting edge and they did so in the second half. Trent Alexander-Arnold flashed a shot just wide of Ederson’s near post and midway through the second half, the league leaders drew themselves level. A deep cross from Alexander-Arnold went all the way to the far post. Fellow full-back Andrew Robertson reached it, squaring the ball across the six-yard box for Roberto Firmino to tap home from close-range. It was his eighth Premier League goal of the season.
A question was asked of the champions by the challengers and City responded in textbook fashion. Eight minutes after losing their first lead, Guardiola’s side established a second advantage. Raheem Sterling fed Leroy Sane and the German’s precise shot hit the back of the net via the post.
Aguero had a chance to make it 3-1 before the end but smart goalkeeping from Alisson denied him a second of the evening. It was a heavyweight battle which City eventually prevailed. Liverpool’s unbeaten sequence was over, and their lead trimmed to four points. It was a pivotal moment in this epic title battle between these two superpower sides.