City came agonisingly close to ending the long-running Anfield jinx but Riyad Mahrez’s 87th-minute penalty miss let Liverpool off the hook. The Blues instead head back to Manchester with a highly creditable 0-0 draw but will be thinking about what might have been on a day when a superb defensive performance by the champions laid the foundations for the possibility of a rare victory in the red half of Merseyside. Nonetheless, it was an excellent, disciplined display by City with Liverpool’s front three kept quiet all afternoon.
What happened? City started a little nervously with a few misplaced passes inviting Liverpool pressure in the early stages with the first attack of any note coming after 15 minutes following good work by Fernandinho and ended with a Raheem Sterling shot deflected wide. City’s next attack almost resulted in a penalty as Joe Gomez mis-kicked a clearance straight to Sergio Aguero in the box and Dejan Lovren’s clumsy challenge saw the City striker stumble, but referee Martin Atkinson waved appeals away. The Blues grew into the game and started to dictate play without managing to trouble Alisson. There were one or two challenges that aggrieved the City players who felt they perhaps weren’t getting the rub of the green – especially a foul on Bernardo by Jordan Henderson that looked a nailed-on caution – but again there was no interest from the officials. As the teams went in at the break goalless, it felt as though one moment could completely shift the momentum of what had been a cautious affair this far. The next major talking point came on the hour-mark when a Sterling corner struck the raised arm of Virgil van Dijk – but Fernandinho was judged to have fouled him and the controversy was immediately nullified. That came during a period of dominance by the Blues who broke with purpose as the ball was won back on the halfway line and Silva and Aguero combined to set Mahrez towards goal and after a losing his marker who swept a low shot a foot or so wide. The Mahrez worked a chance again moments later but shot straight at Alisson. The Blues were defending stoically and purposefully, especially when Salah, Firmino and Mane were in possession. The hard-working Sterling started a move that again ended with the ball falling to Mahrez after Bernardo’s cross was only half-cleared and the Algerian’s shot was pushed around the post by Alisson. City pressed again with some neat footwork by substitute Gabriel Jesus in the box ending with an arm across his face by the fortunate Lovren who again was given the benefit of the doubt as the Brazilian went down under the challenge. Then, finally, the break City had waited for when Silva played Leroy Sane into the box and he was felled by van Dijk and the referee pointed to the spot with just five minutes left on the clock. The sting in the tale was Mahrez’s spot-kick as he blazed high over the bar to spurn a glorious chance to end the Anfield jinx. The miss gave the home crowd and players a mighty lift, but City thoroughly deserved a point at the very least – and maybe more - and saw out the remaining minutes comfortably. So, it wasn’t a victory, but a priceless point will have banished the Champions League disappointment of last season and keeps the Blues unbeaten and on top of the table going into the international break.
Star man: Aymeric Laporte Superb stuff from the Frenchman, who, alongside John Stones and Fernandinho, were outstanding all afternoon.
What it means... City stay top on goal difference with 20 points from a possible 24, with Chelsea and Liverpool tied in second and third respectively on 20 points as well.
What’s next? There’s no Premier League action for the next fortnight as the international break kicks in. Then, a week on Saturday, City return to action with home game against Burnley.
Liverpool (0): Alisson; Gomez, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner (Keita, 29’); Salah, Mané, Firmino (Sturridge, 72’)
Man City (0): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy; Fernandinho, Bernardo, David Silva; Mahrez, Sterling (Sané, 75’), Agüero (Gabriel Jesus, 65’)