MAN CITY 3-2 LIVERPOOL: Both Manchester City and Liverpool had their moments in what was a thrilling encounter at the Etihad that saw the hosts progress to the quarter final of the Carabao Cup
Manchester City ran out 3-2 winners in a thrilling, end-to-end Carabao Cup clash against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool who fought valiently until the very end.
It was quite the welcome back for both sets of players as the two long-time title rivals faced off for their first game back after the World Cup break.
The game got off to a rapid start, with Erling Haaland spurning a glorious chance within 30 seconds before his counterpart in the opposite corner Darwin Nunez saw his effort blocked by Aymeric Laporte.
After a month of listening to praise for Kylian Mbappe, Haaland was operating like a man with a point to prove and fired City in front with a poachers, fox-in-the-box style finish.
Out of nowhere, Liverpool found themselves level 10 minutes later after Fabio Carvalho guided a right-footed effort beyond Stefan Ortega to silence the home crowd.
The second half had only just started when Riyad Mahrez restored City’s lead, taking Rodri’s pass in his stride before lashing home but the home celebrations had barely finished when Mohamed Salah levelled things up for a second time.
Nathan Ake handed City the lead for a third time just before the hour, notching his third goal against Liverpool with an expertly-guided header.
Mirror Football has analysed five of the contest’s main talking points after a breathless encounter at the Etihad.
Having enjoyed more than a month’s rest, the Premier League ’s most potent marksman was handed a Carabao Cup debut against Liverpool.
The Norwegian international has come up against the Reds twice this term and failed to score in both. Haaland could have put that wrong to right within 30 seconds after some neat work from Rodri but got his lobbed effort horribly wrong.
That rare example of some wasteful finishing can most likely be put down to rust after a month of watching the World Cup from home, as just minutes later he was up to his old tricks and put City in front.
Haaland managed to get across Joe Gomez after some questionable defending from the England international and guided the ball into the bottom left corner with his studs to pick up where he left off before the break.
Normality restored for De Bruyne
After a nightmare World Cup campaign with Belgium which saw the City star publicly question his own national team’s credentials, Kevin De Bruyne looked back to his best in sky blue.
The playmaker pulled the strings and set the tempo for just about every City attack early on as the hosts flew out the blocks, before he played his part in the game’s opening goal with a combination the Etihad faithful have seen so many times already.
De Bruyne picked the ball up out wide and effortlessly lofted a left-footed cross into an area that Haaland seems to thrive in, making sure City made Liverpool pay early on.
The 31-year-old could have had two more assists in as many minutes, first picking out Ilkay Gundogan with a smart cut-back before a cross that looked like it was out of David Beckham ‘s playbook, though Nathan Ake failed to head it anywhere other than straight at Reds’ keeper Caoimhin Kelleher.
The exact same pairing were responsible for City’s third however, with De Bruyne’s inviting cross finding Ake at the back post and this time the Dutchman made no mistake.
City’s post-World Cup showing
Man City had more players out in Qatar than any of their respective Premier League rivals and more than the majority of other big clubs across the continent.
There were 16 Etihad stars away representing their nations, 10 of whom reached at least the quarter-final stage with a total of 4,628 minutes completed by City players.
Before the game, Guardiola conceded he actually feared those who weren’t away on World Cup duty would be the ones needing to find rhythm.
He needn’t worry – with Haaland putting those concerns to bed inside the first 10 minutes.
The Norwegian wasn’t the only City star in form, with near-enough the entire eleven playing as if there had been no stoppage in the season, which certainly bodes well for the upcoming title charge.
A mixed night for Nunez
Liverpool’s mega-money summer signing has divided opinion since arriving from Benfica and performances like this one are precisely why.
Darwin Nunez was guilty of missing two big chances for the Reds in the first-half, fizzing both efforts wide of the bottom left corner having been given time and space inside the City penalty area.
And yet, there were still flashes of the 23-year-old’s promise and potential – most notably in the build-up to Liverpool’s second.
The Uruguay international burned Laporte for pace, showing the kind of speed that strikes fear into the heart of just about every central defender.
That same pace presented Nunez with the chance to make amends for his profligate finishing in the first-half with 20 minutes to go, but yet again he dragged his strike wide.
City’s bright future
Guardiola has a plethora of world class names to call upon already, but the performances of Rico Lewis and Cole Palmer should spark optimism over the future.
Both of the talented City academy stars more than held their own when up against incredibly tough and significantly more experiences opposition.
Lewis in particular showed he has what it takes to become a regular at right-back with a display that combined solid defensive traits with an impressive tendency to get forward at the right times.
He was also completely unphased with some overzealous challenges from Andy Robertson throughout, don’t be surprised to see the 18-year-old line-up for City again in the quarter-final.