This top-of-the-table clash between Liverpool and Manchester City offered much but in the end delivered very little as the two teams cancelled each other in the first scoreless draw between the sides at Anfield in more than thirty years.
The one moment of note was Leroy Sane’s run late in the second half that drew Virgil van Dijk into conceding a penalty, which Riyad Mahrez insisted on taking rather than substitute Gabriel Jesus, only to blast over.
Here are our ratings for the Man City players:
Ederson – A very quiet afternoon for the Brazilian who was not tested all day with two comfortable saves. Had 81-per-cent accuracy in distribution. 6
Kyle Walker – Dealt with Sadio Mane comfortably, but hardly threatened going forward. Obviously restrained by his manager. 5
John Stones – Cut out some dangerous balls in the first half and rarely troubled in the second with five aerial duels won. 7
Aymeric Laporte – Worked hard to make some crucial defensive touches in the first half, and hardly needed in second. Had 85-per-cent passing success. 6
Benjamin Mendy – Dangerous every time he got forward and caused real issues for Joe Gomez. Held back in second half as Gomez got forward more. 5
Fernandinho – Robust defensive effort as Guardiola was clearly determined not to concede. Three tackles and two aerial duels won. 6
Bernardo Silva – Again focused more on defensive duties, making four tackles. Had 74 touches with 86-per-cent pass accuracy. 6
Raheem Sterling – Contained fairly comfortably by Gomez most of the afternoon. Another disappointing return to Anfield, subbed on 75 mins for Sane – 5
David Silva – Worked well with Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho to deny Liverpool time and space in the middle. Dominant in the second half with dangerous passes every time he got the ball. 8
Riyad Mahrez – Worked hard down the right wing without finding the telling cross in the first half. Had City’s best chances with four shots, two on target. A bad penalty miss. 6
Sergio Aguero – Unlucky not to win a penalty in the first half after Lovren’s clumsy swipe. Booked for clumsy challenge on Henderson in second half and substituted on 64 minutes after a frustrating afternoon. 5
Gabriel Jesus – On for Aguero on 65 minutes. Superb run on 76 minutes, twisting and turning through two defenders. 7
Leroy Sane – On for Sterling on 75 minutes and made the surging run to win the penalty from Van Dijk, blazed over by Mahrez. 7
Riyad Mahrez missed an 85th-minute penalty as the Premier League’s top two, Manchester City and Liverpool, drew 0-0 at Anfield.
The visitors had three previous claims for a spot-kick before Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk’s challenge on substitute Leroy Sane eventually resulted in one, but £60 million summer signing Mahrez blazed over.
It resulted in the first goalless draw between these two at Anfield since 1986 – and also City’s first clean sheet at the ground since then. But Reds boss Jurgen Klopp will be celebrating Monday’s third anniversary at the club as the happier manager.
The point allowed City to regain top spot from Chelsea, who had briefly taken over after their win over Southampton earlier in the day, but their opponents dropped to third.
However, the top three are all on 20 points and separated by goal difference only.
A top-of-the-table clash between the Premier League’s most-exciting sides offered so much – and delivered so little.
Despite the fevered pre-match billing, there was no shot on target until 62 minutes and no 2018/19 Premier League first half had fewer shots (three).
The drama was saved for the final throes. Serene centre-back Van Dijk’s uncharacteristic lunge on substitute Leroy Sane threatened disaster, prior to Mahrez’s disastrous effort in the absence of Argentina hot shot Sergio Aguero.
3 - With Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City all yet to suffer a league defeat this term, this is just the second time in Premier League history that as many as three teams have gone unbeaten in their opening eight games of a single season (also 2011-12). Race.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 7, 2018
The case for the defence – It is easy to deride this contest as instantly forgettable.
But this viewpoint does a disservice to the defenders, and defensive systems, on show. To shut-out such weight of attacking talent augurs well for both sides’ hopes in the Champions League.
The bigger picture – Sunday’s big winners were to be found more than 200 miles south.
Chelsea’s imposing 3-0 victory at Southampton, allied with this sterile stalemate, made it a three-way tie at the top after eight matches. Few predicted Maurizio Sarri’s work would be conducted with such haste.
So much attacking talent, so little excitement – The Silvas, Aguero, Raheem Stertling and Mahrez v Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
These are attacks to strike fear into any opponent. That they misfired so badly cannot just be down to improved defensive displays.
When such tight margins exit, the quality of Kevin De Bruyne’s set pieces offers a profitable solution. His imminent return from injury will be welcomed.
Referee gives Reds a helping hand – Neither side deserved to emerge with three points from this dull contest.
But for the hosts, their share of spoils owed much to the actions of referee Martin Atkinson. The champions could rightly feel aggrieved when recalled Croatia centre-back Dejan Lovren’s kick through Aguero went unpunished, plus a Van Dijk handball under pressure from Brazil anchor man Fernandinho.
Although judged by Mahrez’s horrific late spot-kick, it wouldn’t have mattered.
TACTICAL TURNING POINT
Pep puts the handbrake on – The defensive acumen of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola often goes without comment.
Sunday’s showdown saw conservatism reign. Klopp’s decision to ditch adventurous right-back Trent Alexander Arnold in favour of England team-mate Joe Gomez highlighted his measured approach.
In such tight margins, the German may bemoan the summer call not to push through a move for France maestro Nabil Fekir – City’s Champions League-tormentor in September.
After emphatically losing his last three matches against the Reds, Guardiola visibly put the reins on. Les Bleus left-back Benjamin Mendy’s muted contribution was symbolic of this approach.
At Wolverhampton Wanderers last month, he pumped in nine crosses. This time, it was just three.
Relief will be the overriding emotion after Mahrez’s ballooned penalty-kick threatened Stanley Park, rather than Alisson’s goal.
Worries will again be reserved for Egypt forward Mohamed Salah. It’s now four games without registering for last term’s 44-goal superstar.
The epic, high-octane victories over City will not be repeated again until the ‘Egyptian King’ looks befitting of his crown.
MAN CITY: C
A point away at Anfield is nothing to sniff at, especially when 2017/18 featured a pair of emphatic defeats.
The on-field call to allow Mahrez to step up from 12 yards, rather than Gabriel Jesus, seems silly in hindsight. Plus, he’s now wasted five of his last eight penalties.
Fine margins threaten to define a title race which looks far tighter than last term’s record-breaking march to success. Will this decision hurt City come May?
Maurizio Sarri has backed Ross Barkley to become an integral part of the England squad after he starred in Chelsea’s 3-0 success at Southampton.
Midfielder Barkley celebrated his recall to the national team at St Mary’s by setting up Eden Hazard’s opener and then scoring his first Blues goal.
Barkley and in-form team-mate Hazard were the standout performers on the south coast and the latter laid on a stoppage-time third for substitute Alvaro Morata.
The former Everton player was left out of Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad in the summer following a series of injury issues and won the last of his 22 caps in May 2016.
Head coach Sarri has been impressed with Barkley’s desire to make up for lost time and tipped him for a bright future heading into the international break.
“I am very happy for him, for the goal, for the national team.
“He had a very serious injury in the last season, now he’s improving every day but I think the best will come for him.
“Potentially, he is a great player because he has quality, very important qualities from the physical point of view, from the technical point of view, now he’s improving from the tactical point of view.
“I think he will become very important in England and for the England national team.”
Sarri, who replaced compatriot Antonio Conte at Stamford Bridge in the summer, saw his unbeaten start continue on Sunday as Chelsea remain among the Premier League pace-setters.
The division’s top-scorer Hazard slotted in his seventh league strike of the season with half an hour played after Barkley dispossessed Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and slipped him through.
Barkley then tapped home after Olivier Giroud directed a Willian free-kick back across goal, before Spaniard Morata finished a flowing passing move after being played in by Hazard.
Sarri felt the final goal was the best of his short tenure and epitomised the slick style of play he is trying to implement.
“Something like this, we moved the ball very quick, I think one touch, at the maximum two touches, and then we arrived at the goal so easy,” he said. “I think it’s my football.”
Asked if it was the finest goal scored since he arrived in England, he added: “Sure, of course, because I can see my way of football in this situation.”
Defeat for Southampton continued their miserable recent run in front of their own fans.
Saints have won just one of their last 15 league games at home, meaning Chelsea and Leicester have each won more matches at St Mary’s in that time.
Striker Danny Ings missed a glorious chance to open the scoring for the hosts, while Nathan Redmond rattled the crossbar at 2-0.
Saints manager Mark Hughes admitted his team struggled to impose themselves on the game.
“(It was a) difficult afternoon for us, we didn’t start with the intensity we talked about,” said Hughes.
“We were too passive, allowed them to get comfortable possession too often in our own half.
“We were able to create a good chance with Danny – clearly if we score first then it may well have been a different type of game for us.
“Credit to Chelsea, I thought they were excellent on the day, they look very strong, very assured in possession.
“With the talent they’ve got at the top end of the pitch, it’s difficult to contain them for 90 minutes.”