Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain felt Manchester City’s tactics played into Liverpool’s hands as the Reds handed Pep Guardiola’s side their first Premier League loss of the season with a thrilling 4-3 win at Anfield.
Oxlade-Chamberlain set the hosts on their way early on, with Leroy Sane equalising before the break.
A blistering start to the second half saw Liverpool roar into a 4-1 lead thanks to goals from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, but City threatened an unlikely comeback thanks to late efforts from Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan.
“We know they like to play out from the back and they are really good at it, but at the same time we thrive when teams try and do that, it can play into our hands,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said on Sky Sports.
“Second half when we went on a bit of a rampage for five or 10 minutes that showed.”
The loss was runaway leaders City’s first in 23 league games this term.
“It’s a nice statement to make,” said Oxlade-Chamberlain. “They’ve been brilliant all year.
“We knew we had what it took if we were 100 per cent at the races to get three points today.”
Mane admitted the nerves were jangling at the end, though, as City fought back to within one goal.
“It was not easy for us – 4-1, 4-2, 4-3, you are a bit scared, but we worked as a team and I think we deserved to win today,” he said.
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah then put the hosts 4-1 ahead in the second period before a late onslaught from City saw Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan pull two goals back before the final whistle.
Shots – 8
Shots on target – 5
Pass success – 69%
Aerial duel Success – 42%
Dribbles won – 15
Tackles – 22
Possession – 35%
Shots – 14
Shots on target – 7
Pass success – 82%
Aerial Duel Success – 58%
Dribbles won – 19
Tackles – 18
Possession – 65%
The big news in attack for Liverpool was the return of Mohamed Salah as he joined Firmino and Mane in the front three. While Adam Lallana was played as a number 10 in the Merseyside derby, Klopp opted for a more flat midfield three with Emre Can flanked by Oxlade-Chamberlain and Georginio Wijnaldum.
The defence remained the same apart from Virgil van Dijk missing out through injury while Loris Karius retained his spot between the sticks.
With Gabriel Jesus sidelined, Sergio Aguero again started up front with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane providing width on either side. Fernandinho anchored the midfield also occupied by Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan.
Fabian Delph started at left-back with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi in central defence and Kyle Walker on the right.
TACTICAL TURNING POINTS
Pressure from kick-off
There’s only one way to get at City and that’s to go for the jugular. If there’s one chink in their armour, it’s their defending. Their good defensive record is more a product of their possession and opponents’ reluctance to attack than their own defending.
Liverpool however were fearless on the day, putting that suspect defence to the test and the cracks began to show early on. The Reds didn’t allow City time on the ball and were swift in the transition, looking the more dangerous side in the opening exchanges.
They got their reward in the ninth minute when turning over possession. Oxlade-Chamberlain was positive enough to then drive forward and fire in from range.
Finding the space
With Walker pushing up the pitch to support Sterling who was having a difficult time, the inside left channel offered an opening where John Stones was left exposed. Fernandinho initially did well to shuttle across and provide cover but was unable to do so on every occasion.
In the transition again, Walker was caught up the pitch while Firmino barged Jones off the ball and lobbed Ederson to give the hosts the lead. Mane then found time on the edge of the box in the same area to thump his effort into the top corner to make it 3-1.
Nervous closing stages
After going 4-1 up, the loose ball rather fortuitously fell for Bernardo Silva inside the box. After that though, Klopp had the right idea by replacing Salah with Lallana as he tried to pack the midfield.
However, his team were still playing frantically and in taking off the Egyptian, he removed a valuable outlet. City then made it 4-3 to really put them under pressure. Klopp responded by throwing on Klavan, but again, removed the last remaining outlet in Mane. They survived in the end, but only just.
Attacks concentrated down the right
After Liverpool went ahead, they were still on top for a while until City made the notable decision to concentrate their attacks down the right flank.
Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne linked up well while Walker bombed forward on the outside. Between Sterling and De Bruyne, they began to create chances with Aguero’s movement in the box causing Liverpool problems.
It was the switch that brought the equaliser. A long diagonal to Sane on the now less-manned left flank saw the German bring the ball down brilliantly before skipping past a defender and rifling a ferocious effort past Karius at the near post.
Delph started at left-back and did well in the early stages to keep tabs on Salah. However, he was replaced in the 31st minute after failing to shake off a knock.
Danilo came on to replace him and the Brazilian’s attacking tendencies translated into Salah being afforded more freedom.
City were made to pay as a result with the Egyptian growing in influence as the game went on and ending up with a goal and assist to his name.
To Guardiola’s credit, he made sure his team kept going, even when things looked bleak at 4-1 down. They stepped up and took the game to the hosts. Bringing off Sterling for Silva helped as he drifted inside and largely escaped the attention of Robertson.
Gundogan was pushed further up front with only Fernandinho hanging back in midfield and that brought about the third goal as well.
Unlike Jose Mourinho, Klopp didn’t show City too much respect. His fearless brand of attacking football was just what was needed to finally defeat the league leaders.
There’s a fine line between fearlessness and naivety though and perhaps if there was more time on the clock, the German would’ve crossed it. He still needs to make his side more compact when the situation demands more resistance.
Nevertheless, he pulled off what no other manager has accomplished in the Premier League this season.
True to his philosophy to the end, the Spaniard never strayed from his plan. He made little tweaks along the way to try and break Liverpool and deserves credit for persisting even when they weren’t creating much.
His changes towards the end were spot on and that’s where he shone more than his counterpart. However, he was not prepared for the kind of pace and energy Liverpool would attack them with and was caught off-guard.
It was a timely wake-up call for Guardiola though, lest he get too complacent.
Summer signings Robertson and Oxlade-Chamberlain excellent today. Wijnaldum, Emre Can and Firmino all very good, and Mané and Salah constant threats. A win in the image of Klopp, full of hard work, heart and attacking verve.
— Joseph Musker (@JosephMusker) January 14, 2018
Klopp has rotated throughout the first half of the season, while our rivals haven’t. Now, everyone is fresh and ready for an incredible second half of the season. It’s showing. What. A. Performance.
— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) January 14, 2018
The first thing Pep said in his interview was congrats to us for winning. If that was Mourinho, the ref would be blamed, the grass would be too long, the lighting was slightly off, there was interference from the Sky team and Klopp was getting too happy in his area.
— jonjo🍭 (@shelby512x) January 14, 2018
Arsene Wenger brought beautiful football to England, it was so beautiful that England stood still for a season and Arsenal went on invincibly to win the Premier League, Pep Guardiola’s ManCity do not compare.
— Utd (@SimplyUtd) January 14, 2018
Stats from whoscored.com
Raheem Sterling endured a disappointing return to former club Liverpool with Manchester City on Sunday afternoon.
The England forward has been in sensational form this season with 14 goals in 20 Premier League appearances, but was hauled off after 71 minutes as the Premier League leaders were beaten 4-3 to suffer their first defeat of the season.
Here Press Association Sport assesses the 23-year-old’s impact at Anfield.
Sterling has always possessed the attributes to cause defenders problems, but under Pep Guardiola this season he has turned occasional flashes of brilliance into consistent end product. However, deployed wide on the right he found little joy against Liverpool left-back Andrew Robertson, who matched Sterling for pace and more than held his own in the pair’s one-on-one duels.
With Robertson nullifying any threat out wide, it was little surprise that Sterling’s best moment came when he drifted infield. With the score still 1-1, Sterling played a central role in a swift counter-attack at the start of the second-half, only to under-hit his pass to Sergio Aguero and allow Liverpool’s defence to get back and block the Argentine’s effort on goal.
Robertson’s ability to maraud forward makes him a dangerous opponent, and to Sterling’s credit he tracked back well to prevent the Scotland full-back posing a threat at the other end of the field. Sterling was beaten in the air by Robertson at the start of the move which led to Roberto Firmino scoring Liverpool’s second, although other Manchester City players were far more culpable for the ball ending up in the back of the net.
As Liverpool began to run riot in the second half Sterling appeared to lose his cool. He squared up to Robertson after the former Hull player was penalised for a hefty challenge, and was booked six minutes later for a clumsy, late tackle on Georginio Wijnaldum. Guardiola replaced Sterling with Bernardo Silva two minutes later.
Having been booed from the start by the home crowd, Sterling was a willing runner and put in plenty of effort during a pulsating encounter. However, he received little change from Robertson and failed to make an impact in the final third. It was no surprise to see him substituted after he began to lose his discipline midway through the second-half.