Manchester City 1 Liverpool 1 - Johnny On The Spot
This was the relentlessly high paced Premier League game that just about had it all. Two top quality sides loaded with international players going head to head backed by two stellar European managers doing their respective touchline fruits, albeit overseen by yet more pisspoor English refereeing.
The intensity of the game was breathless, neither side keen on going into an international break with a defeat. Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool had embarked upon a resurgence following a terrible run whereas City were revealed post match by Pep Guardiola as being downcast at their midweek Champions League exit. I don't intend to focus too heavily today upon referee Michael Oliver's classic display of scattergun, erratic and haphazard decision making, save to say that I am forming the opinion that such is the speed of action involving quicksilver players like Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sadio Mane that Premier League referees and linesmen are hopelessly unable to keep pace with them nor read contentious situations when players of that ilk are involved at all accurately. Television assistance cannot be deployed quickly enough in my opinion. The stakes are way too high.
That glaring issue set aside, I prefer to look at why City failed to realise another home victory against one of the league's top sides much as they should have beaten Spurs and Chelsea previously. Finishing. Admittedly, poor defending gave up free headers against Monaco in midweek but City's profligacy in front of goal that night was repeated against Liverpool despite the Blues generally putting in a much better defensive shift even with the midfield often not picking up runners consistently enough. If all the gilt-edged chances in this pulsating game are taken, then City secure the three points, it is as simple as that. Sergio Aguero has chalked up a tremendous 25 goals in 35 appearances this season having missed a raft of games through suspension. Admittedly though, the Mighty Atom with an astonishing 161 City goals to his name inside 5.8 years is missing numerous crucial chances. The 28 year old City talisman is not alone and it is hurting the side's advancement. With 10 league games to go, The Blues have their lowest points total at this stage than in 4 of the previous 5 seasons. 6 draws at home wherein countless opportunities went begging have undoubtedly put a spanner in the works. The frustration is almost all consuming when you factor in some of the wonderful football City have served up this season.
The danger is that having now tightened up at the back to the tune of only 2 league goals having been conceded in the last 6 games since the increasingly effervescent Willy Caballero took the gloves, the continued passing up of chances up top could yet sabotage what needs to be a top three make sure finish to get another crack at the Champions League, nevermind the campaign to win the FA Cup.
It is with this in mind that the possibility of the stunningly fresh battling unpredictability that Gabriel Jesus brings in abundance might yet be re-injected into the side for half of our remaining fixtures is threatening to become something of a necessity. Much will depend upon the teenage striker's continuing intensive rehabilitation in the coming fortnight.
Back to yesterday's humdinger. I think the manner and standard of the game emphasised how thus far on merit, City and Liverpool deserve to join Chelsea and Spurs in a top four finish. I think it would be a travesty for the turgid grind out Stretfords or Arsenal and their entitled moaning support to replace any of the current top four by the close of business in May. However, for that to end up being the case both City and Liverpool have got to start hitting the target consistently.
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