How Liverpool's draw at Man City was gloriously flawed and James Milner won the old boy battle

Chris Bascombe
James Milner was booed on his return to the Etihad - 2017 Liverpool FC

A gloriously flawed game

Both teams had to adjust. Rarely do Liverpool play a side prepared to attack them, while – Champions League tormentors Monaco aside – it is also rare for Manchester City to face opponents so eager to press in their own half.

Jurgen Klopp’s strategy is well known, but stopping it from being effective needs bravery and poise from defenders put under pressure. John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi often resembled the VIP rabbits in a headlight staring competition as Liverpool’s front three continued to pounce. But when City could get through into midfield there was space to work.

It made for a breathless kind of game and also one of the most peculiar. It was incredible it finished 1-1 given the opportunities at both ends. The two best players on the pitch – Adam Lallana and David Silva – also missed the sitters.

Brilliant yet blemished. That sums this up.

Man City vs Liverpool shots on goal

Milner won the battle of the old boys

James Milner was very strangely booed on his return to The Etihad – not much gratitude shown to a player who won two titles.

Raheem Sterling was booed by the visiting fans – not much gratitude to the £49 million that was paid for him. Sterling has played against Liverpool numerous times now since that move and his wait to gleefully justify it goes on.

Clichy clattered into Firmino to give away a penalty

He did have a chance in the first half and felt Milner illegally stopped a tap in. It was Milner who won the old boys’ battle by converting Liverpool’s penalty early in the second half. The penalty decision was clear  - Roberto Firmino was fouled by Gael Clichy. Liverpool also felt they should have been awarded a spot kick in the first half. 

Can was an able deputy for Henderson

Emre Can prefers the deep-midfield role but sometimes there is an indiscipline to his game. Not this time. This was probably his most accomplished performance of the season. He was comfortable in possession and also delivered an exquisite pass to Firmino in the build-up to the penalty.

Average touch positions (0 min)

It was a high class midfield battle between Can, Georginio Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana and David Silva. The more possession Silva has, the more problems for the opposition. The Spaniard was central to City’s best moments. There should be University thesis dedicated to the study of Silva’s weight of pass.

His calmness in possession was in contrast to so many of his team mates who are hurried. That said, the City midfielder missed the first easy opportunity when he struck over with the net inviting the finish. Sometimes you feel like Silva should think of the net as a team mate – in which case he would find the target every time.

Man of the match

It has to be Adam Lallana despite his miss. He must have broken records for distance covered, tackling and creating. Had he struck the winner it would have been one of the great performances of the season.

What next for City

A trip to Arsenal and a trip to Chelsea. That is what made this such a pivotal fixture. A draw is not a disaster but they must be looking over the shoulder as the table gets congested. They have plenty of class but the team structure still needs work.

The tough fixtures keep on coming for Klopp and Guardiola  Credit: reuters

What next for Liverpool

The Merseyside derby. Klopp would probably have taken the point beforehand, but will also lament the missed chances on the counter attack. They have now gone unbeaten against all the top six having played them home and away. Everton will complete their schedule against the rest of the top seven.

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