Sunday 26 January 2020

Reds' class shows as the balance of power changes

Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City stares at referee Michael Oliver as he walks onto the pitch for the second half. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City stares at referee Michael Oliver as he walks onto the pitch for the second half. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

In an episode of The Simpsons, broadcast a long, long time ago, Bart reckoned you could see the exact moment when Lisa broke the heart of Ralph Wiggum, live on television.

The TV cameras were there, with a worldwide audience, yesterday when something similar happened: the broadcast of the precise moment where Manchester City's reign as Premier League champions ended.

That was in the 51st minute of their game at Anfield, when the home side went 3-0 up as a city (or at least the red half of it) went into ecstasy.

City and Pep Guardiola could well regroup and stay in the race to retain their league title, maybe even win back momentum and retain power but, in all likelihood, when the trophies are handed out in May, City will be the ones surrendering the silverware with the Anfield club greedily taking it over.

But this game said a lot about where the two clubs are right now and there they can go for the rest of the season.

Liverpool look clinical, organised, hungry and deadly, not getting many chances in the game but taking them when they came their way,

If only City could say the same. The finesse which got them over the line to win back to back Premier League titles seems to have slipped away and it's now Liverpool who hold that role, that status.

City can point the finger of blame at the match officials - they did last night and will do for the rest of the week, maybe into next month if they let this defeat fester.

Some decisions were questionable and once again football is left asking the question: is VAR more bother than it's worth? Key handball decisions were made here with game-changing consequences.

Guardiola looked like an angry man when he approached the referee and his team after the game, the most sarcastic 'thank you' possible as he shook their hands and shook his head at the same time.

But City must look within as well as to those outside their camp on a day when their title bid really came off the rails.

They had started the game well and looked like a side who had the ability to cow Anfield into submission, maybe even silence.

Not an easy thing to do as emotion seeped from the stands onto the field, everyone seemingly aware that Irishman Sean Cox was attending his first game of football since the life-changing injuries he suffered at the hands of an Italian thug who is now behind bars.

City should have had an early penalty, the beginning of Guardiola's ire on a tough day for the champions. Yet there's steel behind this Reds outfit, a stunning two-goal blast in the space of seven minutes to put the home side 2-0 after just 13 minutes.

City at their peak were able to put teams like Liverpool away, use their attacking nous and strong defence to finish them off,

But Manchester City FC in November 2019 lack the backbone which has propelled Liverpool to the top of the league and give them an eight-point lead.

Vincent Kopmany sitting in the TV studio, instead of his usual role at the hearyt of that defence,, shows how far they have fallen defensively.

And Liverpool look strong at the back, an annoyance to concede again, now eight successive games without a clean sheet.

Intensity drove City to a series of league titles, now it's Liverpool who look intense, this a day when the balance of power shifted.

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