English Premier League (EPL) title holders, Manchester City on Thursday night ended Liverpool Football Club’s perfect start in the season with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium.
City’s recent shock back-to-back defeats by Crystal Palace and Leicester City had allowed Liverpool to amass a commanding lead in their quest to win a first title since 1990.
Now, the champions trail Liverpool by just four points, thanks to Leroy Sane’s winner 18 minutes from regulation time after Roberto Firmino had cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s first-half opener.
City also had fortune on their side in the pulsating contest particularly before the half time break, particularly when Sadio Mane burst onto Mohamed Salah’s pass in the 19th minute and saw his shot come back off the inside of the post.
City defender, John Stones then smacked his panicked clearance into goalkeeper Ederson but the England international redeemed himself by clearing the ball just before all of it crossed the goal line.
The hosts were also handed a reprieve by referee Anthony Taylor when their captain, Vincent Kompany only received a yellow card for a wild two-footed lunge on Salah.
At the other end, Virgil Van Dijk yet again justified his tag as the world’s most expensive defender by keeping City’s array of attacking talents quiet for most part of the match.
However, a Liverpool defence that had not conceded twice in the same game all season in the EPL before the match was breached when City managed to free Aguero from Van Dijk’s shackles.
The Argentine forward beat Dejan Lovren to Bernardo Silva’s cross before firing into the roof of the net to score for the seventh time in as many home league games against The Reds.
Despite a combination of nerves and fatigue at the end of a grueling festive period, the game truly came to life in a pulsating second-half.
One Liverpool full-back picked out another when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s well-timed cross was perfectly met by Robertson who squared then ball for Firmino to head into an empty net.
Moments later, Guardiola had his head in his hands when a slack pass from Sane set Liverpool free on the counter-attack which was foiled by the City defence line.
However within seconds, the German sensation showed what he was capable of as he latched onto Raheem Sterling’s pass before firing in off the far post.
Alisson demonstrated why Liverpool spent a then world record £67 million for a goalkeeper in July to bolster their title chances with a brilliant save from Aguero as the Argentine tried to round him at the end of a blistering City counter-attack.
Seconds later, it was the turn of his understudy in the Brazil side to make a huge save as Ederson denied Salah of an equalizer.
Sterling then wasted a great chance to ensure City didn’t have to see out a tense last five minutes of stoppage time but the hosts held out to reignite their chase for a second consecutive league title.
With no more league meetings between the sides to come, Liverpool’s destiny is still in their own hand, but they will now have the pressure of having a City side that romped to the title with a record 100 points last season on their tails.
Speaking after the encounter, City coach, Pep Guardiola said: “It was a final for us because losing today, it was almost over. We are four points behind them and they are the leaders. We have to fight a lot but this gives us a lot of confidence.
“I am proud of them (the players) but not just today. We lost two games in four days but you can’t forget what they have done for 16 months.”
On his own part, Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp responded: “If somebody had told me after both games against Man City we would be 4 points up, I would have paid money.
“We never won it as a team so we want to finish the season as strongly as possible and we are still in a pretty good position.”