There can only be one champion. This captivating tie is more a title shaper than a title decider, but there is none more important than this. Everything that came before does not matter anymore, and what comes next will take care of itself. No manager has beaten Pep Guardiola more times than Juergen Klopp. No manager has beaten Juergen Klopp more times than Pep Guardiola. Whoever wins this puts themselves in pole position to snatch the coveted Premier League title.
Both sides head into this encounter off the back of Champions League quarter-final first leg wins. Manchester City got the better of Atletico Madrid 1-0 while Liverpool smashed three past Benfica. With the title destiny still in their hands, it was paramount that City head into the game with the wind in their sails as a win would see them open up a potentially unassailable four-point lead. While for Liverpool, it would see them overtake the blues and secure a two-point gap. With a point separating these two sides at the top of the table, it all comes down to who wants it more.
Manchester City came flying out of the blocks like a team that wants it more. Five minutes into the game, Kevin De Bruyne, the man for the special moments, rifled a long-range effort that took a nasty deflection off Joel Matip and gave the Cityzens a headstart. It was his sixth goal in six appearances for City. Boos from the Man City fans every time a redshirt touched the ball, and Liverpool knew they were under pressure and behind enemy lines. However, undeterred, Liverpool struck back in the 13th minute. Andy Robertson’s deep cross was cut back for Diogo Jota by Trent Alexander Arnold, and the Portuguese fired home the leveler. It was his 15th league goal this season.
A feisty encounter this was. Both teams had struck within the first quarter of an hour, and they were far from being done. Raheem Sterling found space in-behind the Liverpool defense, but Gabriel Jesus shot straight at Alisson Becker. Ederson had a moment of madness, nearly, as he controlled a back pass and pressure from Diogo Jota almost turned it into an own goal. City piled on the pressure looking to regain a lead they did not get a chance to enjoy. De Bruyne picked out Rodri with a deftly taken freekick, the Spaniard headed down for John Stones, and it only needed a touch, but the headed pass was too strong for Stones to catch.
Both sides were not scared to go for the jugular, but it was City who controlled possession. Arnold, whose wing was bombarded by City throughout the game, tried a hopeful attempt to catch Ederson off his line before Joao Cancelo danced on the wing and slipped in KDB. The Belgian could only find the side netting. Just over the hour mark, City pinched the lead back. Bernardo Silva picked out Cancelo on the wing, and he forced a save off Alisson. The resulting corner saw Liverpool switch off, Joao Cancelo picked out Gabriel Jesus with a deliciously weighted pass, and the Brazilian was on hand to slot past Alisson.
Again came City turning defense into attack. De Bruyne let Phil Foden loose, his squared pass only needed a touch, but Sterling could not get there. Phil Foden floated in a freekick, and Laporte should have scored from close range. It did not matter as he was flagged offside. Liverpool were pegged back, pinned back, and had nowhere to go. Juergen Klopp would have been grateful to go into the halftime break only a goal down. What a HALF!
Liverpool were a goal down going into the break but would not go out without a fight. Seconds after the restart, Mohammed Salah, who had a relatively quiet first half, slipped in Sadio Mane, who fired home to bring the Reds level again. Both teams pleading their cases on why they deserve to be crowned champions of England, delighting us with an enthralling encounter in the process.
Joao Cancelo switched the play exquisitely and not for the first time, his usual target Gabriel Jesus won his duel with Andrew Robertson and fashioned a chance to shoot, but it was cleared off the line. Minutes later, De Bruyne slipped in Raheem Sterling, who dashed at Alisson, and cooly slotted home. The Eithad erupted, but VAR was on hand to ruin their joy as they ruled the Englishman offside, and rightly so. Mo Salah cut in from the right and unleashed a shot that took a deflection off Aymeric Laporte, and surprisingly, a goal kick was given.
The Cityzens were back at it, and in waves of sky blue, they flocked forward in attack. Jesus found himself in space on the right. He had options for a cutback in De Bruyne and Foden, but the Brazilian had a go himself and only found the side netting. City piled on the pressure at the latter stages of the game and looked the most likely to score. Joao Cancelo had been a menace down that left-hand side, and his in-swinging cross almost caught out Alisson as it flew inches wide. Three minutes into the four added on, City caught Liverpool on a De Bruyne led counter, and he found Riyad Mahrez in space. The Algerian cut in and was on the cusp of rewriting the headlines, but he could not pull off an audacious lob. City fans watched the ball and their hopes of snatching a late winner sail high over the crossbar.
End to end it flew by, both sides took turns attacking, and the tide could have tilted either way. It felt like a final, it was played like a final, but in the end, it only lacked a winner. A succession of fouls marred the flow of the game late on. Both sides tried to pinch it at the dying embers with Manchester City looking more likely, but they ultimately settled for a draw. It’s all to play for in the remaining seven games of the season. From here on out, every game is a must-win.