It smacks of irony that Man City’s quest for a record-equaling run of 24 consecutive wins on home turf has now been halted by Liverpool’s inverted full-back, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Pep Guardiola was deployed in such a role during his playing days and he is now most closely associated with it as a manager despite other teams also employing this positional tactic.
A low drill by the Liverpool local lad who is now the league’s most high profile inverted full-back, ended in Ederson’s right bottom corner on the 80th minute to put an end to City’s perfect home run of 23 wins since January.
One short of equalizing Sunderland’s 19th century record of 24 consecutive home wins. Former captain Jordan Henderson must be having a big sigh of relief.
With this equaliser, Trent also earned Liverpool one point which did no harm to the Reds’ credentials for the league title challenge.
A fortnight ago, all of a sudden, this Saturday early kick-off became a clash at the top of the table after Liverpool comprehensively won against Brentford and Spurs stumbled at Wolves.
The resultant top 2 teams separated by a single point restored the league table to a sight so familiar over the past several years.
During the match build-up, the word was for Liverpool to go out all guns blazing. Trying to sit back and contain the opposition was seen as fraught with risk because City are well known to be able to break down any side.
But the Merseysiders did not quite follow the script. For the first 15 minutes, they had nothing to show for.
However, the home side themselves probed and probed without creating any clear-cut chance albeit a scary moment from Alisson Becker who cleared a ball directly to Phil Foden, only for the England international to thankfully shoot straight back at our keeper.
Such lack of incisiveness during the initial stages should not come as a big surprise given the players have just returned from international duty before this early Saturday kick-off.
Finally, some Liverpool action on the 16th. Joel Matip made another of his iconic run deep into opposition territory before feeding Mo Salah on the right. The cross from our Egyptian King was met with an on-target header by Darwin Nunez that was spectacularly pawed away by Ederson.
Less than a minute later, Nunez was released by Dominik Szoboszlai but unfortunately, the Uruguayan took too much time to sort his feet out in his attempt at shooting.
Two decent chances which Liverpool would rue 10 minutes later. While trying to quickly release Salah down the right for a trademark swift counter-attack, Ali slipped while kicking the ball which ended with Nathan Ake instead.
The Dutch defender evaded 2 Liverpool players before leaving it for Erling Haaland to finish with a low left footed shot past Ali.
Now Liverpool were in not unfamiliar territory of having to come back and they duly switched gears.
After intercepting deep in his back line defence, Trent launched a delightful long ball to Nunez for a counter-attack on the 33rd.
Unfortunately, Salah and Diogo Jota could not finish properly to give this outstanding long-range pass from Trent its proper due.
Barely a minute later, Szoboszlai intercepted in midfield and released Nunez who shot just wide while under pressure from Ederson.
The City keeper’s counterpart in Liverpool also had to show why both of them are in the Brazilian national squad. A fierce low drive by Foden just outside the D was met with a diving save by Ali towards the end of the first half.
It would have been all but game over for Liverpool if this one had sneaked in.
Could have gone either way
Despite trailing on the score and despite the opposition dominating possession, there was no perceived sense of panic in the Liverpool camp at half time. They’ve seen this and done that before even though it was now against an opposition of a wholly different calibre.
The second half did not deliver a clear-cut dominant team though, with each side carving decent chances and the keepers making defining saves leading to the match eventually ending in parity.
Ederson caught a Matip goal bound header on the 61st and tipped out a Nunez shot ten minutes later.
In between, Dias had put the ball at the back of the net but the attempt was ruled out because Alisson Becker was impeded by Manuel Akanji.
For his part, Ali foiled another Haaland attempt on the 79th, one minute before The Scouser in our Team struck the equalizer from 18 yards out.
Until then, the City fans were perhaps expecting their team to coast to a minimalist win. Apart from the Travelling Kop, the Etihad was stunned into silence by Trent’s goal… a complete silence more usually reminiscent when one struggles to fill up one’s stadium…
For sure, Ali had a difficult game and sadly he looked to have been injured as he needed medical attention right after the final whistle. We are holding our breath as we await for the diagnosis.
This top of the table clash could have easily ended with either team taking all the spoils. But Liverpool must be content to be the first side to leave the Etihad in 2023 not empty handed.
The Reds have now navigated the most difficult fixture for any Premier League team and harvested a very credible point.
We are still very much in the mix at the top of the table after 13 games, still one point behind City and two behind now leaders Arsenal at the time of writing.
To put all that in perspective, remember the abysmal 4-1 in this fixture last season. A disastrous scoreline which was only equalled by a nightmarish Liverpool display that we could not wait to forget.
Well, this reloaded Liverpool has already dismissed all that to the distant past. We are all eagerly looking forward to the future.