Written by Contributor: Sean Gallagher
EPL Roundup Matchday 32: Liverpool, Man City Share the Spoils in Titanic Clash; Man United Suffer Worst Loss of Season to Everton; Spurs in Top-4 Drivers Seat
This week we’re taking a full look at the most high-stakes, intense game the Premier League has seen in some time! Let’s relive the clash between Manchester City and Liverpool in all its glory.
Manchester City v Liverpool (2-2)
Very often last season we would get a huge Premier League game advertised and the match wouldn’t deliver. The fixture pileup due to Covid that was so frequently lamented by managers across the league was partly to blame, as well as having no crowd to amp up the intensity.
That’s all gone back to normal this season. If you were lucky enough to tune in on Sunday before your Masters fix, you got to witness two of the greatest managers the game’s ever seen go head-to-head in 90 spectacular minutes of play. It was very reminiscent of the first time these two clubs squared off back in early October with that match also ending 2-2 at Anfield. We were supposed to get a clearer picture of who will win the Premier League after Sunday, but the only thing made clear was the fact that these two sides are the best in Europe. Period.
It was tense from the get-go at the Etihad. How about another brutal Raheem Sterling miss?! That was the game’s first massive opportunity and yet another massive let off by the 27 year old. He has his moments of brilliance, but Sterling must learn to finish the easy chances that have tormented him for so many years. Of course Kevin de Bruyne was there to save Sterling’s behind less than a minute later with a beautiful (deflected) finish off the post. A typical spurt of magic we’re used to seeing from the Belgian midfielder. Liverpool were rattled, no doubt about it. They came out of the gate clumsy and out-of-sorts; I couldn’t help but keep noticing Trent Alexander-Arnold getting caught out of position.
You knew this game was going to be great when Liverpool equalized. The passing that led up to Jota’s goal was impossibly good. Andy Robertson’s looping ball into the box, rebounded by Alexander-Arnold directly to Jota; it was vintage Liverpool. Then came the moment with Ederson’s nonchalant attitude in goal nearly costing Man City in a huge way. The photos with the ball on the line and the Brazilian’s face completely relaxed are just terrific. He is truly cold-blooded. Man City would retake the lead on the cusp of halftime on a goal by Gabriel Jesus that I think a lot of viewers thought might have been offside. But his perfectly timed run allowed the goal to stand and it was advantage City at the break.
It took the whole of 45 seconds after the start of the second half for Liverpool to come back once again, courtesy of who else but Salah and Mane. The pass by the Egyptian was picture-perfect and Mane’s textbook finish set the stage for a tense 45 minutes. Raheem Sterling seemingly avenged his earlier miss scoring a potential match-winner on a breakaway in the 63rd minute. But VAR had their look and determined him to be inches offside, a close but correct call. That prompted Joel Embiid to tweet: “VAR has to be the worst thing ever… just let the referees make decisions and live with the results.” Embiid’s got a point with many decisions that VAR makes, but they made the right call on this one.
Manchester City had two more major moments in the match that they’ll regret not putting away. From the 70th minute, it felt like both teams were starting to feel comfortable with a 2-2 result. But a free kick opportunity with minutes to go presented itself to Riyad Mahrez, who hit the post from a long way out. He couldn’t be blamed for missing a shot from that far out, but he’ll be kicking himself for his mistake a few moments later. With one of the final touches of the game, Mahrez found himself with a great opportunity at the top of the box with Liverpool keeper Alisson coming out. He went for the chip that easily beat Alisson, but skied too high for the goal as well. Mahrez will be losing sleep over that miss; it really should’ve been put away..
That was the type of game you want to watch another 90 minutes of. We won’t get the Pep vs Klopp matchup many more times with both coaches foreseeing a potential exit from their respective clubs within the next couple years. With a point going to each side, City remains in first place by just a point over the Reds. Neither team has a particularly difficult schedule the rest of the way so whoever ends up winning this title will have to be near-perfect to close out the year. The best part? Liverpool and Man City meet again on Saturday in the FA Cup semi-final!
- I had to refresh my phone multiple times when I first saw the final score of Man United-Everton out of sheer disbelief. The United season has hit a new low which is impressive by their standards! The Red Devils probably thought their matchup against Everton was exactly what the doctor ordered and instead lost to a team with the worst form in the entire league. To make matters worse, Ronaldo slapping an opposing fan’s phone to the ground after the game will bring a PR headache to the club and the star himself. As for Everton, this win is absolutely crucial for their hopes of staying up. With the Toffees’ absurdly difficult run-in of matches coming up, Frank Lampard will take 3 points wherever he can find them.
- 2 games and 2 losses for Arsenal since the international break. This time a 2-1 dud against Brighton that puts another dent in the Gunners top 4 hopes. It’s still up for grabs, but Arsenal have to put away mid-table teams to prove they’re worthy of 4th in the table.
- Seriously, who wants top 4?! What’s for certain is that the 4th place finisher this season will stumble their way in. West Ham put up a poor performance against Brentford keeping the Hammers in 6th place and falling farther behind Tottenham. A Europa League finish for David Moyes’ side will still be an impressive feat, but Champions League just looks a bit out of reach for the West London club.
- Speaking of Tottenham, they are starting to look like the only team worthy of finishing in that coveted 4th spot. Antonio Conte’s men traveled to Birmingham over the weekend and thrashed Aston Villa 4-0. They’ve still got to play Liverpool and Arsenal down the stretch, but I think Spurs have just enough to squeak out that final Champions League spot.
- Chelsea came out firing on all cylinders and beat Southampton 6-0 on Saturday. A good turnaround from their disappointing first leg match against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter finals which saw the Blues lose 3-1 at home.