A red card, five goals and parity for Pep Guardiola against Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool’s visit to the Etihad Stadium was cast as a showdown between two spectacular attacks and a pair of leaky defences, with Manchester City seeing off their top six opponents with a 5-0 win.
Sergio Aguero opened the scoring within the first half hour to settle serves as the Reds ruffled the feathers of their hosts at the back and as soon as Sadio Mane was sent off for a high challenge against goalkeeper Ederson, the match only seemed to be going one way.
Gabriel Jesus scored twice once Liverpool went a man down before substitute Leroy Sane came off the bench to add a fourth.
Below are the winners and losers from Manchester City 5-0 Liverpool.
Often criticised as a striker who lacks the tactical nous to play Guardiola’s way, and characterised as a prima donna by his detractors, Aguero stood tall once more for City to give his team mates the chance to catch a breath and keep their composure as the Reds had them rattled in the opening 20 minutes or so.
It only took one mistake from Jordan Henderson, and a brilliantly instinctive and clever run from the Argentinian, to swipe the opening goal and set the home side on a more even keel for the remainder of the game.
By hitting the back of the net, Aguero overtook Dwight Yorke for Premier League goals scored by a non-European, and became only the fourth player to score in six consecutive home fixtures against the same opponent. More than most sides, Liverpool have grown to fear his presence playing up front.
He absolutely justified his selection, and worked well alongside Gabriel Jesus who scored twice to put the result beyond doubt, yet had Aguero not broke the deadlock in City’s favour, their startled reaction to Liverpool’s game plan could have led to a draw or even defeat.
No manager has won more games against the Catlan than Jurgen Klopp in his career. In 10 previous meetings, the German had won five, Guardiola four and a draw rounding out their list of results. On their 11th clash, City’s head coach drew level.
It is also exactly the sort of result he needed. The Mancunians had started the season relatively slowly by their standards. While the new campaign was only three games young going into their match at the Etihad, they had made hard work of it versus Brighton, Everton and Bournemouth. At least two of those fixtures should have resulted in embarrassingly one-sided scores going by their previous encounters in years gone by.
Guardiola also tinkered with the team he picked to face Liverpool. Kevin De Bruyne was deployed deeper again. It paid off, massively. Danilo as a defensive midfielder or auxiliary centre-back? The Brazilian worked a treat once his side got a grip on the game. Aguero and Jesus up front together was another call that went his way.
With a thumping 5-0 win over Liverpool under his belt, and his decisions all ruled to have been made correctly, Guardiola was a big winner who can now look to kick on with his squad in the Premier League and the Champions League.
Had it not been for Aguero’s goal and Mane’s sending off, Guardiola’s back line could have been losers. Nicolas Otamendi was a mess in the opening exchanges. John Stones was hesitant to step out and put pressure on incoming opponents. The absence of Vicent Kompany, both as an aggressor to win the ball and deflect danger, and a leader whose presence and personality on the pitch helps to soothe the anxieties of those around him, was clear.
Without him, they appeared shaky from the off, and effectively got away with it as other factors in the game eased the pressure that had been placed upon them and put the focus on their opponent’s back four instead. They may have to hope for more helpful developments at the other end of the pitch in the weeks to come to cover for Kompany’s injuries in Europe and in the Premier League.
What a mess. It was a red card decision, no doubt about it. Mane’s boot was high as he flew into the Manchester City goalkeeper, Ederson, who sprinted off his line at such a pace that the Senegalese forward didn’t seem to clock how close he had come when they both arrived to try and take the same ball at the same time.
Jon Moss will receive plenty of fury for taking the decision he did but the laws of the game dictate that the Liverpool forward had endangered his opponent with an act of dangerous play. The Brazilian ‘keeper is currently receive medical attention after for taking Mane’s studs to his face.
Yet would the winger have done anything differently had this series of events not come to pass, and did he really have enough time to properly react or reassess his decision to go for the ball, even at the height it was at?
Those claiming he was at fault for not choosing to head it or step away might need to consider the margins that professional footballers are required to play to, and the commitment demanded of them, especially in moments that could potentially lead to a goal – but that doesn’t excuse the outcome, of course.
By putting himself in the position he did, well ahead of City’s back-line with only Ederson to beat, assuming he would always be getting to the ball first, Mane sealed his own fate putting his team a man down, and for that he has to go down as a loser, although not the idiotic or guilty party some will try to paint him as.
Liverpool’s main threat in the first half, the Egyptian rushed by his markers and through the final third time and time again only to come up short on the final ball.
His shots were weak and easily saved or blocked. There wasn’t the service for his on-rushing cohorts that they needed to make good on his breaks down the flanks or through the middle. It was a frustrating sight to watch Salah surge behind City’s defence only to end up with nothing to show for it.
A man down, he was hooked off for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the second half. Had he had his eye in on goal, the Reds could have been ahead before Aguero’s goal and Mane’s dismissal.
Despite the gains he has made under Klopp as the German’s most trusted recycler of possession from deep and launcher of long balls, Henderson still has his critics. They say he is too cautious, too safe and too prone to errors, and he ultimately left the ball for Aguero to pounce on and put away City’s opener.
He also played his part in Liverpool conceding their other goals, especially the third as played a poor pass and then ran off in the wrong direction to cover. A woeful outing for Klopp’s captain who became anonymous for his own side and a key player for City to further expose Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip at the back.