Manchester City breathed life into the title race with their 2-1 win over Liverpool, but what were the talking points from the game?
Leroy Sane struck a fabulous 72nd-minute drive which beat Alisson and went in off the post to hand City a 2-1 win and shatter a Liverpool side who pressed for an equaliser right until the end.
Pep Guardiola’s defending champions had gone ahead through Sergio Aguero five minutes before half time before Roberto Firmino equalised from close range after 64 minutes.
But in the biggest game of the season so far City came out on top, inflicting Liverpool’s first League defeat of the campaign and reducing their lead at the top to just four points.
In a high tempo battle loaded with drama, Liverpool were left angry with referee Anthony Taylor.
The Altrincham official let Vincent Kompany escape with a yellow card for a reckless challenge on Mo Salah that Jurgen Klopp reckoned should have been red.
1. Few as lethal as Sane
Blues boss Pep Guardiola has questioned Sane’s attitude at times but the German flyer was in the mood at The Etihad.
The former Schalke star, 23 next week, terrorised Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dejan Lovren and had a hand in Aguero’s clinical first half goal.
His pace and hunger for the ball meant he was a constant threat to a Liverpool defence who don’t normally have many sticky moments.
2. Technology plays its part
When technology works it’s football’s greatest friend – and the saviour of referees too.
The Goal Decision System came to Manchester City’s rescue after 19 minutes when the ball appeared to cross the line as John Stones rammed a clearance against his own keeper Ederson.
The ball looped up and looked to be over the line when Stones hacked clear.
Anthony Taylor’s watch didn’t buzz and pictures showed 99.9% of the ball was behind the line but not all of it.
3. Aguero edges out Salah
Sergio Aguero won the battle of the super strikers with Mo Salah to reach another milestone landmark in his glittering career.
The Argentinian scored the 250 League goal of his career – lashed in with venemous power from a tight angle just before half-time – to put City in the driving seat.
The South American star kept Virgil Van Dijk and co busy all night with darting runs and a general air of menace and his goal was a decisive breakthrough.
Aguero scored the opener and played a key role in the winner, freeing up Leroy Sane to receive Raheem Sterling’s pass with a clever run to pull Trent Alexander-Arnold out of position.
“We need Sergio for this type of game, his quality makes the difference,” Pep Guardiola told Sky Sports afterwards. “Sergio has a special quality in that position. We have to win these important games, and he’s done it his whole career. The first goal, the finish was incredible.”
4. Robertson proves his value
When it comes to value for money in a team full of superstars you can’t beat Liverpool left back Andrew Robertson.
The defender only cost £8million in a switch from Hull 18 months ago but the 24-year-old Scottish international is every bit as valuable as £75 million Virgil Van Dijk in his role in Liverpool’s back-line.
Full of energy and enterprise, Robertson had a running battle with Raheem Sterling but managed to keep the former Kop star off the scoresheet.
5. Left-back woes for Pep
Manchester City have a near-perfect squad – but while Liverpool have Robertson, left back is becoming a major problem for Pep Guardiola.
The City boss needs to spend on a new left back in January or the summer with injury-prone first choice Benjamin Mendy – on the sidelines again after a knee operation – not reliable enough.
With normal stand-in Fabian Delph suspended, Guardiola deployed French centre-back Ayemeric Laporte on the left side and he didn’t look comfortable.
City got away with it – but long-term Guardiola needs to splash the cash.
6. City are still the team to beat
As much as Liverpool failed to introduce some of their best football in this encounter, Reds were not poor, but rather they were beaten by a better team.
Molehill-like losses against Crystal Palace and Leicester should not be made into mountains. Liverpool do still have the advantage atop the league, but this game proved that whether City win the league or not, they are still the best team in English football, and indeed one of the very best in world football.
Such is the nature of the Premier League table at present that Liverpool fans’ heads will hit pillows, although upset, with the calmness of a four point cushion in first place, whilst the Citizens will wake up and tuck into their breakfast as if it is the same four point gap that they are gearing up to abolish.