The Ped Report City 5-0 Liverpool
A grey grizzly day welcomed the faithful of both sides as the Etihad awaited yesterday. Having left Sue's a little after the crack of dawn to the ubiquitous threat of "locks can be changed you know" should what might have been the unlikely happen, the trek down the M62 was not to remember.
With the Stretfords having been handed a seemingly endless supply of winnable matches, and them taking advantage of that, those following behind need to keep winning, one feels, to keep in touch with those that TalkRubbish are already heralding as "Champions elect".
Of course, the seasonal draw of matches inevitably draws the other big teams against each other in the hope that the Stretfords pull away early and catch the big teams when injuries and suspensions kick in, but today pitched two more title hopefuls against each other in the shape of Liverpool and our very own, Manchester City.
The Liverpudlians fresh from their systematic dismantling of the Ashburton Grove Bottling Factory last time out would certainly be in the mood to repeat the process against a City team that, League Cup Final excepted, had struggled to reap corn in recent matches. Conversely, City, whose early season has been one of tolerance rather than enjoyment and once again minus Captain Krock and his calf injury, really needed to demonstrate to their fans that this team, despite its defensive frailties could mix it with the best. Meanwhile, of course, Stretford's finest were looking forward to another nourishing feast away to Stoke City. Or so they thought.
Guardiola's line-up is starting to take shape. There is no need for the manager to concern himself with squad rotation as the referees seem to have taken that task away from him, but today's shuffle started the feeling of "real deal".
Deciding against Mangala as a straight swap for Kompany, Danilo showed his versatility playing on the right of a back three which included Stones and Otamendi, Stones looking much more comfortable in the centre behind Fernandinho.
The monster from Monaco, Mendy and Walker were to add width while David Silva and De Bruyne provided creativity. There were two snipers in the shape of De Jesus and Aguero.
Liverpool's line-up, missing their maestro, Coutinho was predictable although once again, to the chagrin of dear Susan elected to omit Robertson, who in his only outing so far made a difference to their fragile defence, but did decide to include Klavan, who to most of the red three-quarters of Liverpool, is a liability.
The match started as expected with the Mendy and Walker vacating space which Mane and Salah were designated to exploit. In the early exchanges chances arrived for Salah and Can and also for Silva and Fernandinho, none of which really threatened to engage the scoreboard writers. Otamendi took an early yellow card when denying Salah easy access to the penalty area. The same was not offered when Matip did identically likewise, but at least Terence Trent D'Arby collected one for another almost identical foul on the lively Mendy.
The game was twenty four minutes old when Aguero flipped the ball back to Fernandinho whose awkward header found De Bruyne in space. Klavan was drawn out of position and Aguero darted into the vacant space. De Bruyne's pass was pin-point and Aguero's finish dynamite, taking it around Mignolet and sliding the ball home. Kun has now overtaken Yorke as the most prolific non European and is on the tail of Shearer in the "best ever" Premier League scorer stakes.
Liverpool got their skates on trying to attack City in the full back areas where there was space for them to create mischief. Both Mane and Salah had opportunities to equalise especially as Salah was getting a free run at Otamendi who was clearly afraid to offer a tackle, but they found Ederson in excellent form seemingly taking everything in his stride.
I was taken to task after my last Ped Report by reader Skoorb who felt that I was tarnishing Ederson with the Bravo brush. He is probably correct in that assumption but the big Brazilian had me eating my words today. He is a big unit this guy and plays like a centre half able to use his hands. He twice headed out crosses on the edge of the box and even used one to find Walker! His handling was good and he looked like he had command and control of things in the penalty box.
That was until minute thirty seven when Liverpool probed again with an over-the-top ball out of defence putting Mane clear. Ederson was like lightning in getting to the edge of the box for another "routine" headed clearance only this time Mane followed through, foot aloft and clattered into Ederson's face.
With the Liverpool fans accusing him of feigning, it became clear immediately that all was not well with the goal tender as he simply did not move. While the nearest City players demanded the attention of the medics, referee Jon Moss calmly went to his pocket and produced a red card, eliminating Liverpool's main threat.
It took the medics eight minutes to stabilise Ederson giving the Nevilles and Carraghers of this world time to pitch their "yes it was, no it wasn't" cases. For this writer, I think Mane could have pulled out. I also think that with his foot as high as it was, if he was not to make contact with the football it was always going to end with him heading for the showers. At least Jamie Carragher agreed with the Pedmachine.
The upside for City was that Liverpool were now down to ten men. The upside for Liverpool was that a goalkeeper giving us one of the best half-hours we have seen in recent years was now removed from the field and replaced by clumsy Claudio. Surely this still gave them a chance?
It was important that City should exploit the added eight minutes and enhance their performance with an additional goal before half time and two minutes into that added time it looked as though they had done just that, when another excellent cross from De Bruyne was headed home by De Jesus only for the almost normal linesman's flag to deny him.
This only delayed the inevitable. This time De Bruyne popped up down the left after an interchange of passes with Mendy. Same cross, same ending only this time the flag was absent and a goal it was. De Jesus in behind the static-looking Klavan to head home for a half-time score of 2-0.
The dynamics of this match had now changed and Klopp replaced Salah with the Ox. My thoughts were that he should have replaced either Can or Wijnaldum as both they and Henderson all seem to do the same job. He could have gone with two there and simply played the Ox further forward. Klopp certainly didn't have damage limitation on his mind, but it would be the boys in blue who turned the screw.
Seven minutes into the second half the danger signs were there for Liverpool when Mendy released Aguero to sweep home. However, the eagle eyed linesman who put paid to de Jesus' earlier attempt also scratched off this effort by the Mighty Atom as the opposition breathed a sigh of relief. It was the shortest-lived of breaths though as in the next move, Fernandinho also released Aguero who had found a gap in Liverpool's high line. This time he also had de Jesus on his shoulder and whereas the temptation must have been there to go it alone, he drew Mignolet and opened the door for de Jesus to grab his second before completing his work for the day.
Sadly for Liverpool, his replacement was to be a hungry-looking Sane.
Over a five-minute period, City piled on the pressure down the left where Mendy was in awesome form providing this season precisely what Kolarov did not last season. Run after run, pass after pass and where Salah was reaping fruit in the first half, so now was Mendy.
De Bruyne started the move in the seventy sixth minute with a sweeping pass into Sane who immediately brought in Mendy down the left who played it behind the tiring Can and Sane got between the equally tiring Matip and Klavan and drilled the ball past Mignolet.
As the game wore on Sergio could easily have helped himself to two more. He missed with one and found Mignolet in the way for the other as Sane demonstrated his pace and power in tandem with Mendy. It was however Walker in space on the right that found Sane centre stage and pretty much unattended. Sane looked up and curled the goal of the match into the "postage stamp".
For City this was a much needed big win, albeit against ten tiring Liverpudlians who simply failed to cope in the second half. Where most opposition managers would have tried to close the game out at 2-0 and limit the damage, fair play to Klopp. He still believed there was something in it for his boys. But with the space they gifted to City, the Blues were in no mood to toy with the situation and were simply ruthless. Make no mistake about it, City could have doubled their score in this match.
To a man, the Blues looked a top outfit today. Even Mangala when he was introduced for Otamendi and Bravo found their opportunities for characteristic errors were limited by a front six making sure the ball stayed at the other end.
Stones had his best game in a City shirt and Danilo continues to impress me. Walker and Mendy looked frightening with their blistering pace and power down the flanks and the use of their brains to cover gaps in defence when one of the three gets pulled out of position. Silva and De Bruyne ran the show with the Belgian looking back to his best and his range of passing was scintillating.
Apparently, Lampard and Gerrard couldn't play together and the cynics at planet Etihad have the same misgivings about Aguero and de Jesus. Well, that's not the way it looked against Liverpool. Both were on the scoresheet, both had goals disallowed and both were a menace.
With the Stretfords only getting a draw at Stoke, City have now pulled level on points with them and not, as they said on TalkStretford, a point behind. Clearly their educationally-eliminated brainwashed pseudo Stretfords have difficulty with adding up. Huh, the amount of time they spend pontificating about the ghastly quarter of just-outside Manchester doesn't add up either.
We can now go forward to the first offerings of the UEFA Champions League in fine fettle and try to hunt for an early win. Feyenoord are first up, as you would expect, away from home, so we will have to see what Wednesday brings. Failure to beat Celtic last season was the onset of the rot after City's incredible start to the season. We need to keep the momentum going after today's sparkling performance.
The good news about Ederson is that it doesn't look like a fracture, so hopefully he will be about soon.
The Pedmachine is heading for Spain later this week, JB permitting. I will try to post something after the UCL match but not for Watford and West Brom.
At least when I returned to Crosby my key still fitted the lock although Sue's normally smiley face was absent. Needless to say she was a bit disgruntled.