Manchester City have advanced to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup after coming through a 3-2 thriller against contemporary rivals Liverpool.
The Reds twice came from behind to restore parity after Fabio Carvalho cancelled out Erling Haaland’s opener and Mohamed Salah equalised a mere minute after Riyad Mahrez got City back in front — but they were unable to come back a third time, with Nathan Ake’s winning header sending Pep Guardiola’s men through to the last eight.
It was a pulsating affair between two great entertainers — and here’s how the players rated in at the Etihad Stadium:
Stefan Ortega – 5 – The stand-in ‘keeper didn’t have an awful lot to do as Darwin Nunez contrived to scuff every shot and Liverpool lacked the relentless attacking drive of their usual selves, but he worked well to restart play for City when the ball fell back to him.
Rico Lewis – 7 – A real livewire on the flank for City, you can see why Guardiola trusted the teenager in such a big game. At just the tender age of 18, he looked composed tucking in-field as one of Guardiola’s inverted full-backs and defended resolutely, particularly with a potential game-saving challenge on Salah.
Rico lewis is some player! Wow
— Micah Richards (@MicahRichards) December 22, 2022
Manuel Akanji – 6 – Solid enough and linked up well with Lewis when the teenager drifted inside to form a makeshift midfield with Rodri in possession.
Aymeric Laporte – 6 – Competent defensively as ever, but just didn’t have that yard of pace to keep up with Nunez for Liverpool’s second equaliser. For the most part, though, Laporte was exceptionally solid.
Nathan Ake – 7 – Held his own against Salah at left-back for much of the game and was heavily influential in City’s attacking transitions. Appeared to have a magnet on his head any time the ball left De Bruyne’s feet, and he duly scored the winning goal after a delectable cross from his Belgian counterpart.
Rodri – 7 – A checkpoint player in the heart of Guardiola’s midfield, Rodri was recycling possession for fun, procuring the ball and breaking up play like a terrier.
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Kevin De Bruyne – 8 – He looked a shadow of himself in Qatar, but back in the chillier climes of north-west England, the Belgium was once again his scintillating self. The midfield fulcrum was pulling the strings, whipping dangerous balls into the box and once again linking up with Haaland in near-telepathic fashion.
Ilkay Gundogan – 7 – Formed an industrious, creative and dominating midfield trident alongside De Bruyne and Rodri, Gundogan was his usual pass-spraying self. The German set the tempo with delectable one-touch passes and has clearly put Germany’s World Cup disasterclass behind him.
Riyad Mahrez – 7 – Was having a rather quiet game until unleashing an absolute peach of a curler. The goal alone is worthy of a high mark, with the Algerian trickster trapping the ball beyond Robertson and uncorking a curler in trademark fashion.
Cole Palmer – 6 – A bright spark on a night of plenty of bright sparks for City. Palmer looks a natural talent and had Milner on absolute toast during the veteran midfielder-cum-defender’s time on the pitch.
Erling Haaland – 6 – Kept to himself up front in one of those ball-shy performances, but came to the fore when the chance presented itself to him, taking just 10 minutes to get back amongst the goals.
John Stone (for Akanji 61′) – 6 – A solid enough cameo to carry on from Akanji’s work.
Jack Grealish (for Palmer 73′) – 5 – Looked lively when he entered the fray and tried to make things happen.
Phil Foden (for Haaland 73′) – 6 – The more threatening of City’s substitutes, Foden was slippery and menacing in the brief time he was on the pitch.
Bernardo Silva (for Gundogan 88′) – N/A – Brought on for the final few minutes.
Caoimhin Kelleher – 7 – Another top performance from Klopp’s ‘cup keeper’ who, despite conceding three, kept Liverpool from shipping a cricket score.
James Milner – 5 – The auxiliary right-back was having a torrid time in trying to keep a lid on Palmer, getting frequently spun and pirouetted by a man 16 years his junior. The only redeeming factor from Milner’s night was his well-weighted pass to Carvalho for Liverpool’s equaliser before injury forced him off in the 38th minute.
Joe Gomez – 4 – A player whose career has been buffeted by injury issues, Gomez looked worlds apart from his once stellar 2019/20 form here. Erratic and nervous under the weight of City’s press, the versatile defender really struggled to keep pace with the game.
Joel Matip – 6 – His patented bursts forward and defence-splitting passes were key to Liverpool getting back into the game for Carvalho’s equaliser, but even he couldn’t keep a lid on the host’s concerted pressure.
Andy Robertson – 5 – A difficult night for the Scot as Mahrez tore him to shreds for City’s second, leaving egg on his face as he cut in delectably and unleashed.
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Stefan Bajcetic – 5 – Appeared over-awed by the occasion at times, the teenager had a few hairy moments, including when Gundogan easily spun him and his cynical foul on Palmer, which culminated in a booking. Klopp ultimately took him off at half-time for Fabinho as a result.
Thiago – 6 – Tidy and naturally metronomic during his time on the pitch, the press-resistant pass master produced some world class touches, but even he wasn’t able to dominate the midfield in his typical style as City swamped the park.
Harvey Elliott – 5 – Some neat touches, silky movement and balletic glides, but City’s midfield was largely dominant during his time on the pitch.
Fabio Carvalho – 5 – A real Jekyll and Hyde half from the youngster, who was careless in possession and easily shoved off the ball, but he saved face with the Reds’ first equalising finish in the 20th minute after coolly slotting past Ortega.
Mohamed Salah – 6 – Another game against City, another goal. The Egyptian didn’t dominate the final third, but when called into action, he got his side back into the game.
Darwin Nunez – 5 – Klopp will need to tell Darwin to make sure he has his boots on the right feet next time because the Uruguayan’s shooting was simply appalling. His off-ball work was very impressive as he showed Laporte a clean pair of heels and made some sumptuous runs, but the finishing really, really let him down.
Nat Phillips (for Milner 38′) – 6 – Never easy coming into a game of this magnitude cold, but the back-up defender put in some strong challenges.
Fabinho (for Bajcetic 45′) – 5 – Broke up play in a more experienced manner than Bajcetic, but City remained in control nonetheless.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (for Carvalho 45′) – 6 – A fantastic ball to set Nunez through for Salah’s goal, and a welcome return after so long out.
Jordan Henderson (for Elliott 56′) – 5 – Brought his typical energy and drive in a game where Liverpool needed an adrenaline shot of tenacity.
Naby Keita (for Thiago 70′) – 5 – Not as effective as the irrepressible Thiago.