And with that, I’m off. It’s been a blast, and now I’m all typed out. Bye!
James Milner talks about penalties at both ends.
That was very intense. Both teams went for it and I’m sure it was a good game for a neutral. It hink it was a good game. Disappointing not to get the three points once we went ahead, but maybe a draw was fair in the end. They’re such a good team, they move in pockets of space, you’ve got runners everywhere, overlaps. It’s not the easiest of days coming away here.
[On his challenge on Sterling] 50/50. You’ve seen them given, sometimes they’re not. Luckily for me this one wasn’t. I think if you’d said a draw we’d have been happy with that. Obviously the way the game went we were up, and we had chances but they had chances as well. They had chances too. We’ve played well recently, we need to keep going, keep improving. It’s a big push for the finish, and we’ll finish as strong as we can.
Any team which achieves this is a very silly team.
Of them all, how Lallana didn’t restore Liverpool’s lead remains a complete mystery.
Final score: Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool
90+5 mins: It’s over! It was breathlessly entertaining stuff from first to last, and if you count improbable misses and should-have-been-given penalties actually ended 5-4.
90+4 mins: With 30 seconds of stoppage time to play, Agüero shoots high from 25 yards. Is that it?
90+4 mins: Still they push. De Bruyne finds Sagna overlapping on the right, and his cross is headed down and then acrobatically cleared.
90+2 mins: There will be four minutes of stoppage time. What stoppages, ref?
90+1 mins: Big miss from Agüero! De Bruyne on the right chips the ball across goal, and Agüero has time and space, eight yards out, prepares to sidefoot a volley in, and then sidefoots his volley over!
90+1 mins: Sagna gifts the ball to Mané, who might have run clear on goal had his first been better. Instead, Stones steals.
90 mins: City are passing the ball around the back-line. The last 30 seconds have been the calmest of the game.
89 mins: Mané gets booked for pretty much assaulting Silva. Liverpool take off Can, who has been pretty good, and bring on Lucas.
87 mins: Chance for City! Silva plays a one-two with De Bruyne and pulls back to Agüero, who sidefoots wide!
85 mins: Fact-correction dept: It was Wijnaldum with the lovely chip in the build-up to Lallana’s ludicrous miss, not Can.
84 mins: Agüero, who after a quiet hour has come to life in the closing stages, is shoved off the ball on the left wing by Clyne. The free kick is cleared for a corner. The corner is just cleared.
83 mins: This has been a story of astonishingly sustained breathless activity. It just hasn’t stopped. It’s barely even paused.
83 mins: Then a Liverpool break ends with Firmino unaccountably shooting wide from a silly position when a cross to Lallana seemed more sensible.
82 mins: Down the other end, Sterling is played in, Mignolet rushes out, Sterling prods the ball past him, runs into the keeper, and the ball rolls wide.
81 mins: It’s a lovely Liverpool move, Lallana siezing upon a loose ball on halfway and surging forward. He passes to Firmino, who passes back to, I think, Can. He chips a pass to Firmino, who heads inside to Lallana, who has an easy task to put Liverpool ahead once again! But for some reason he doesn’t.
80 mins: Incredible miss! Missaccio! The miss of misses! Miss world!
78 mins: For about five minutes every award for City – free-kick or throw-in – has been sarcastically cheered by home fans who don’t think they’ve had the rub of the green. The frequency with which they’re doing so suggests they’re not doing too badly.
76 mins: City hit the post! It was really excellent work from Agüero, who carried the ball towards the area, played a one-two, jinked inside and then, just before he tapped in, fell over. The ball kept rolling, though, and ended up at the feet of De Bruyne beyond the far post, whose first-time effort smacks the woodwork.
73 mins: Liverpool’s first change sees Origi come on for Coutinho, who has not been at his best (hat tip to Ian Copestake).
72 mins: Liverpool regain possession and attack again. Firmino’s cut-back to Lallana is kind of cut out, won back again and returned to Firmino. This time he lashes a shot towards the near post, and misses by a whisker.
71 mins: Mané squares up Silva, goes past him with ease, but then realises that Clichy is about to steal the ball from him anyway and falls over. The referee buys it, but the free-kick is headed clear.
GOAL! Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool (Aguero, 69 mins)
Another low cross, this time from De Bruyne on the right, and it’s an absolute cracker. Klavan slides to try to cut it out at the near post, misses, and Agüero has a tap-in!
68 mins: Chance for city! Silva chips in a cross towards Aguero, who meets it with his head, 12 yards out. He needs to put power on the ball, as well as accuracy, but gets neither. In the end Sané rescues the ball away to the right of goal, but the attack breaks down.
67 mins: City win a corner on the left, which loops off a mess of heads in the middle towards Agüero, beyond the far post. He prepares to volley but Klavan leaps in front of him, distracts him, and the kick is missed.
65 mins: Touré’s race is run. Or strolled, anyway. Sagna replaces him, releasing Fernandinho to go into midfield.
64 mins: Can goes on a surge to set up a Liverpool attack, but they decide to turn back, pass around midfield for a while then send it back further still to Mignolet.
62 mins: Liverpool are all over this now, helped by the fact that City are essentially down to 10 men because Touré has forgotten how to run.
61 mins: Save! Firmino is played through, on the left side of the penalty area. Caballero rushes out, Firmino turns onto his right foot, and shoots into the keeper! What a chance that was.
59 mins: Everyone seems happy with Liverpool at the moment. They’re dealing with the 1-0 lead very well indeed, keeping the ball better, defending in numbers when necessary, tracking back diligently.
56 mins: From the corner Stones leaps, with only Touré and Otamendi for company, and heads wide. Great chance.
55 mins: Milner, I think, tries to pass back to Mignolet from 35 yards and misses. Corner.
53 mins: Coutinho never quite has the ball under control, and had surely lost it before he ran into Fernandinho and fell over, but the referee gives the free kick. The home fans howl with fury. Meanwhile, Silva has been booked for excessive whinging.
52 mins: City’s players continue to complain. Clichy’s challenge was at the very least clumsy and misguided. I’m not sure touching the ball with a boot is sufficient when in order to do so you must fly into your opponent above waist height. After a zillion replays it still looks like a foul to me.
GOAL! Manchester City 0-1 Liverpool (Milner, 51 mins)
Caballero goes to his left, Milner goes to his left, and Liverpool lead!
Penalty to Liverpool!
48 mins: Firmino is picked out by a ball over the City defence. He controls the ball, Caballero races out to close him down, and then Clichy flies in from behind with a zooming karate kick. He does swing his foot around the player and touch the ball with his boot, but Michael Oliver thinks it’s a foul, and James Milner will take the penalty!
47 mins: Super goalsaving challenge from Stones! Lallana is released down the right, his low cross somehow finds Mané when it should have been cut out, and Stones flings himself in front of him to block the shot.
46 mins: Peeeeep! Two unchanged teams get half two under way.
The players are back out, and Sergio Agüero has the ball in the centre circle.
But by then they might have had a man sent off, and Agüero has also purchased a yellow card for Matip simply by rolling about. Swings and roundabouts.
Replays of that Sterling miss show that, just as he pulled his right foot back for the tap-in, Milner slid in and kicked it. City should thus have had a penalty.
“What was the reason for the awkward high-five?” wonders Paul Ennis. I think Guardiola was reacting to Agüero’s optimistic penalty claim in the 15th minute, and presumably seeking to discuss its merits with the fourth official, only to be intercepted and charmed by Klopp’s effervescent smile.
Half time: Manchester City 0-0 Liverpool
45+3 mins: The whistle goes, and there have been no goals and no red cards, when we could have had at least one of both.
45+1 mins: Wijnaldum challenges Fernandinho, who falls over. Both players stop, but then realise the referee hasn’t blown his whistle. So Wijnaldum challenges Fernandinho again, and this time it is a foul. De Bruyne’s free kick is headed clear by Firmino.
45+1 mins: That’s right, the half is nearly over already. Before then, two minutes of stoppage time.
44 mins: Matip goes in the book for a pretty mild “foul” on Agüero, really no more than the mildest nudge from behind, to which the Argentinian reacted with a lot of comedy rolling-around.
42 mins: As the half nears its end, Liverpool are pushing forward. A cross from the right is cleverly backheel-volleyed by Firmino, forcing City to concede another corner. From that one, the ball falls to Matip four yards out and the goal beckoning, but Stones arrives from nowhere to get in the way of his shot.
41 mins: Liverpool’s corner is punched clear weakly, but Caballero recovers to save Lallana’s subsequent shot.
39 mins: Incredible miss! A beautiful pass from De Bruyne releases Silva, whose low cross – another one – is missed by Sterling at the far post (he’s possibly put off by the fact he’s about to be clattered from behind by Milner) and Fernandinho behind him sends his shot just wide!
37 mins: Clyne is tripped by De Bruyne, who looks sufficiently innocent and upset by the decision that he isn’t booked. Milner’s free-kick finds Matip beyond the back post, but Fernandinho’s hassling him and he consequently heads wide.
35 mins: For the first time in the game so far, a player is found in space and in an attacking position. It’s Coutinho, picked out by Wijnaldum on the left of the penalty area, but he cuts inside and blasts a shot high of the far post.
34 mins: Sterling tries another low cross, from the right, and wins another corner. “‘Manic, and somewhat error-strewn’ [19 mins] sums up elite English football a little too often, I think,” writes Matt Loten. “Though it makes for a tremendous spectacle, it’s probably what holds us back more than anything else in the latter stages of the Champions League, except perhaps the lack of a winter break. Premier League teams just aren’t as adept at dictating games as the likes of Bayern Munich or Real Madrid. Conte seems to be cracking it with Chelsea, and they’d be my best bet to crack the later stages of the Champions League next season.”
32 mins: I should probably mention this comedy managerial high-five from a little earlier:
29 mins: A delay while Matip is treated for a sore head, after being nutted by Otamendi as they contested a corner.
27 mins: Mané outpaces Stones this time, but his cross is wild. Clyne rescues the ball and passes to Wijnaldum, who somehow bustles past a couple of players before being felled by, or falling over near, depending on how you look at it, Touré.
26 mins: Nice work from City on the left releases Silva, and his low ball is cleared for a corner by Milner, with Sterling lurking.
24 mins: Liverpool have a chance! A back-pass from the halfway line stops midway between Otamendi and Caballero and Mané emphatically outpaces the defender to get there first. He speeds into the box and then, in pulling his leg back to shoot, kicks Otamendi’s shin and falls over. No shot, no goal, no foul.
22 mins: A few successive wild – but clean – tackles ends with Touré and Can sliding in to win the same ball, the City player arriving second, missing the ball and planting his studs on the German’s chest. My initial thought was that it was a red card, but the referee shows a yellow.
20 mins: Chance! Missed! Sané is released on the left, blasts in a low cross which Mignolet gets a leg to, and it bounces out to Silva, who has time to set himself, swing his left foot, and then blast over the bar.
19 mins: This is absolutely manic action. Manic, and somewhat error-strewn.
18 mins: Coutinho fluffs another free-kick, hitting the nearest defender with a lofted chip into the area that was insufficiently lofted.
16 mins: Firmino gives the ball away and then fouls Silva as the Spaniard tries to escape. He becomes the afternoon’s first bookee.
15 mins: Then, down the other end, Aguero only just fails to get on the end of Fernandinho’s low cross at the near post. He thinks Matip held him back and shouts angrily at the referee as the ball rolls away, but he received no more than a gentle caress.
15 mins: City’s attacking players are getting back excellently to deny Liverpool space just outside the penalty area. De Bruyne and Sané gang up to stop the visitors’ latest move.
13 mins: A fie start by the home side. Klavan misses a clearance and the ball rolls through to Silva, who needed only to spin, spot Sterling, pick him out and then run off to join him in a celebratory jig, but instead didn’t spin, and wondered into a crowd of defenders.
11 mins: “I know it is early doors, but I have never seen Coutinho play so poorly,” writes Ian Copestake. It was a badly overhit free-kick and all but crikey, that is a brave call after 10 minutes’ football.
10 mins: Another tight offside decision goes against City, Sterling getting the linesman flagging this time. Liverpool are treading a fine – and high – line here, and sooner or later the flag’s going to stay down.
8 mins: That one’s played short by De Bruyne, returned to the Belgian, and the linesman’s flag is up again. Short corners can be extraordinarily frustrating things.
7 mins: A bit of furious penalty-area pinball, involving Silva, Fernandinho and about five Liverpool players, ends with a City corner. And then another one.
6 mins: Another promising City attack is curtailed by an offside flag, Sané being half a leg beyond the last defender.
5 mins: It’s been a pell-mell opening. It’s not been kick-and-rush, but there has been lots of kicking and rushing.
4 mins: Mané takes on Otamendi, who decides that on the balance of probabilities it’s probably best to just kick him really hard. The free kick is taken, and woefully overhit, by Coutinho.
3 mins: It’s absolutely pouring in Manchester. Presumably this should make for a pleasingly zippy or hopelessly waterlogged pitch, and possibly both at different times.
1 mins: City roar out of the traps, harassing Liverpool’s backline and getting numbers forward, but at the end of it all Sterling is offside.
1 min: Peeeeeeep! They’re off! Liverpool get the ball quite literally rolling.
They’ve run through all the other preambular activities. Football is coming.
And now they emerge from said tunnel! That took a while.
Good news for all football fans: City have turned up.
Still just one team in the tunnel.
The teams are in the tunnel. Well Liverpool are, anyway.
Some pre-match managerial chit-chat, first with Pep Guardiola:
We always adapt to our opponents. Especially when we don’t have the ball, and when we have the ball the opponents have to adapt to us. It will be a good game. The other team, Jürgen Klopp teams always like to press, so aggressive, so direct. Great, great transitions. They will attack, we will attack. Hopefully it will be a good game.
And then with Klopp himself:
Roberto [Firmino] played nearly all games until now. He was out for five or six days then he started rehab on the pitch, which is sometimes more intense than what we do. Two days ago he did everything, 100%. So why not, let him run. When you think about the game you have a lot of things you could expect but you don’t know exactly. I think we are as good prepared as possible, but in the end we will see.
Right, Tottenham 2-1 Southampton has finally finished, and the world can finally turn its full focus towards the Etihad.
Surely they’re not starting behind their couches? It might come to that, sure, but they can’t possibly be there yet.
Two changes for City, then, with Yaya Touré and Nicolas Otamendi coming in. One change for Liverpool, who welcome Firmino back and give Origi the boot.
The teams are in, and here they are:
Man City: Caballero, Otamendi, Clichy, Touré, Fernandinho, Stones, Silva, Sane, De Bruyne, Agüero, Sterling. Subs: Bravo, Sagna, Fernando, Nolito, Kolarov, Iheanacho, Garcia.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Klavan, Milner, Wijnaldum, Can, Lallana, Mane, Firmino, Coutinho. Subs: Karius, Lovren, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Woodburn, Alexander-Arnold.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Well, this is exciting. Manchester City go into this game on the back of a demoralising defeat to Monaco in the Champions League, and 13 points behind Chelsea in the English top flight. And their manager is talking in the manner of someone who is more likely to be a disciple of Egil Olsen than Johann Cruyff:
I never came here and said we are going to win one title. I never said I am going to win the treble, I never said I was going to win the double. I never said it. I never said it on my first day in Barcelona. I promise a lot of work. Few guys can beat me in that. I work a lot. I am so proud of that. I never promise titles, never in my life. Never. Just work.
That sound you’re hearing is Sheikh Mansour sprinting back to Pep Guardiola’s contract to check the small print.
Anyway, back on New Year’s Eve Georgio Wijnaldum scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for Liverpool at Anfield. And Ragnar Klavan, who kept Sergio Agüero quiet that day, reckons he can do the trick again, even if the Argentinian net-buster has scored six goals in his last six games. “I think fearful is not the right word,” he said. “He’s a world-class striker but a lot of teams in the Premier League have world-class strikers. There is always a lot of respect for the strikers I play against but fear is not the word.”
It’s a big game. There have been lots of words. Now, it’s time for action. Or, more specifically, in another hour and after a load more words, it will be time for action. Welcome!
And if you want more words right now, here’s Jonathan Wilson on Pep Guardiola’s zonal theory: