Manchester City ravaged 10-man Liverpool at the Etihad stadium in a highly-controversial yet intense match on Saturday.
Premier League football is back and how! Manchester City subjected Liverpool to a high-octane match at home which ultimately resulted in a devastating loss for the visitors. Sadio Mane’s red card proved to be the decisive moment after he was dismissed for a reckless challenge on goalkeeper Ederson.
Liverpool actually started on the right note but found themselves lagging behind as Sergio Aguero rounded Simon Mignolet and slotted in a sweet opener. Gabriel Jesus added a second goal shortly after Mane’s red card, following which Aguero teed his strike partner up for another.
Substitute Leroy Sane scored two late goals as City exploited Mane’s absence. This result will bring an end to Liverpool’s strong start to the new season. Mane’s red card was definitely a key factor in deciding the fate of the game. The Hard Tackle analyzes five talking points that affected the course of the match:
Mane’s controversial red affair
Sadio Mane received a red card for an unnecessarily reckless challenge on Ederson, which turned the course of the encounter in City’s favour. Sergio Aguero’s goal had already put City ahead before the key moment as the referee showed the winger a straight red.
In an attempt to control the ball, Mane clattered into Ederson with a high challenge. The goalkeeper was then forced off on a stretcher as Liverpool were down to 10 men. While the decision drew a lot of fury from the fans, replays did prove that the red card was justified. Regardless, the Merseyside club were seemingly affected by Mane’s absence.
Soon enough, City were dominating both possession and territory, as they pushed the Reds back and found spaces between the lines of what a stretched four-man midfield. Prior to the red card, Mane was definitely a force to be reckoned with in an otherwise blunt attack but the unfortunate red card cost Liverpool the game.
Others may come and go, but Aguero goes on forever
The prolific Argentine has surpassed Dwight Yorke to become the Premier League’s leading non-European goal-scorer with 124 goals. This was simply yet another strong reminder of Aguero’s enduring ability and importance in this City team.
Guardiola had dropped Aguero for City’s last Premier League game against Bournemouth but he fielded the Argentina international from the start alongside Jesus as they hosted Liverpool. The striker needed just one chance to justify that call, and he did so by expertly latching on to a De Bruyne through ball.
City currently possess enormous talent in the attacking front in the form of Jesus and Aguero. Although that means Aguero missing out on a couple of matches, there are very few who are quite as deadly in that position. Both strikers solidified a formidable partnership against a bleak Liverpool defence, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Liverpool’s defence in shambles
Liverpool’s defensive issues were highlighted brutally as Manchester City left no stone unturned in humiliating their back line. Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan looked blank in response to the pace, movement and brilliance of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.
The defenders looked unprepared as they simply couldn’t cope with City’s blistering activity. Emre Can was put into the heart of a back three in the second half and that did not yield a positive result as one might have predicted. The Reds have been struggling defensively, but in this game, their back line looked utterly shambolic.
Before the game even started, people were shocked to see Ragnar Klavan in for Dejan Lovren at centre-back. While that may seem like a fair enough change, Liverpool need quality back-up options who can deliver since Klavan clearly failed to do so. He was caught out several times by Aguero and almost gifted a penalty to Jesus as well.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s forgettable debut for Liverpool
After a move to Liverpool from Arsenal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s debut was not as brilliant as he might have hoped for. He came on at half time for Mohamed Salah and played in an inside right position. His debut was not horrible but there was little he could do at that point.
The game had gone beyond repair for Liverpool at half-time itself, and there was nothing Ox could do to salvage that but he did work hard and had one or two bright moments. In fact, he actually saw very little of the ball as Liverpool tried to keep the score down.
It’s not the first time that Oxlade-Chamberlain has endured a horror debut, either. When he was making his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt, the Gunners endured their infamous 8-2 embarrassment against Manchester United. The player will see better days at Liverpool but the saga of his jinxed debuts appear to continue.
De Bruyne’s sheer brilliance for Manchester City
While Aguero and Jesus stole the limelight, De Bruyne’s contribution to their victory remains integral. He was the Premier League’s top creator in 2016/17 season, setting up 18 goals, which did make it odd that he failed to record an assist despite playing the first three games of the new campaign.
However, he made up for that slow start against Liverpool, brilliantly teeing up City’s two first-half strikes. Deployed in a slightly deeper role, De Bruyne was perfectly placed as he worked his magic and sent a defence-splitting pass for Aguero to open the scoring.
His cross from the left was then converted to a goal by Jesus just before half-time to put City ahead by two goals, moments after the same move from the right was ruled out for offside. Arguably, De Bruyne is the most important player in Guardiola’s side right now, and his form is likely to be a key factor in City’s fortunes this season.