Manchester: Manchester City won a final according to manager Pep Guardiola to remain in the title race by inflicting Liverpool’s first Premier League defeat of the season with a 2-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium Thursday.
City’s recent shock back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester had allowed Liverpool to amass a commanding lead in their quest to win a first title since 1990.
But the champions now trail Jurgen Klopp’s men by just four points thanks to Leroy Sane’s winner 18 minutes from time after Roberto Firmino had cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s first-half opener for the hosts.
“It was a final for us, because losing today it was almost over,” said Guardiola after the game. “We are four points behind them and they are the leaders. We have to fight a lot, but this gives us a lot of confidence.”
City also had fortune on their side in a pulsating contest, particularly before the break. Only the finest of margins denied Liverpool the lead on 19 minutes when Sadio Mane burst onto Mohamed Salah’s pass and saw his shot come back off the inside of the post.
John Stones then smacked his panicked clearance into City goalkeeper Ederson but the England international redeemed himself by clearing just before the entire ball had crossed the line.
City were also handed a reprieve by referee Anthony Taylor when captain Vincent Kompany only saw a yellow card for a wild two-footed lunge on Salah.
At the other end Virgil van Dijk was again justifying his tag as the world’s most expensive defender to keep City’s array of attacking talent quiet with the Dutchman standing tall to block David Silva’s effort.
However, a Liverpool defence that had not conceded twice in the same game all season in the league before kick-off was breached when City managed to free Aguero from Van Dijk’s shackles.
The Argentine beat Dejan Lovren to Bernardo Silva’s cross before firing into the roof of the net to score for the seventh time in seven home league games against Liverpool.
One Liverpool full-back picked out another as for the visitors’ equaliser when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross was met perfectly by Andy Robertson to square for Firmino to head into an empty net.
Klopp furious at Kompany
Manchester: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was left furious by Vincent Kompany Thursday night, claiming the Manchester City defender’s lunge at Mo Salah could have finished the Egyptian’s season and said that referee Anthony Taylor should have shown the City captain a red card. “I really like Vincent Kompany but how on Earth is that not a red card?” Klopp asked.