Aguero comes to rescue as City fight back

Sergio Aguero salvaged a point for City, cancelling out an opening penalty from his former team-mate James Milner, although those bare facts tell only a fraction of the story from this wonderful, breathless Etihad encounter.

Aguero comes to rescue as City fight back

Manchester City 1

Liverpool 1

In truth, a draw did neither Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp huge favours in the quest for a top-four finish and the big winners of the day could yet prove to be Manchester United who closed the gap on the top four with their win earlier in the day.

But that should not detract from a marvellously entertaining game between two sides hell-bent on attack.

There is a reason English teams do not currently fare well in the Champions League, and a reason the Premier League is the most entertaining in Europe. And here it was.

The goals came early in the second half when Gael Clichy slipped in trying to mark Roberto Firmino and, in recovering, hauled him down from behind. James Milner, strangely booed by his former supporters throughout the game, converted a clinical penalty.

But City responded well and, on 69 minutes, claimed a deserved equaliser when Kevin De Bruyne’s low cross was met by Aguero, having slipped Ragnar Klavan, who converted from seven yards.

Guardiola and Klopp had set up their teams for as entertaining a half of goalless football as the Premier League has served up this season over the first 45; indeed the antics of the two managers were probably worth the entrance money alone as they remonstrated with the fourth official and each other, with one particularly heated row ending with the pair exchanging a flamboyant high five and embrace on the touchline.

It was that kind of game, played in torrential rain that helped speed up play and counter attacks — not that either team needed any help in that department.

The only surprise, as the first half drew to a close, was neither side had scored and referee Michael Oliver had not spoiled the occasion by leaping to a rash decision, which he may well have done.

On 22 minutes, for example, he might have shown Yaya Toure a red card when a rash tackle caught Emre Can in the face with the Liverpool midfielder doing his counterpart a massive favour by leaping to his feet to get on with play.

And a couple of minutes later a poor back pass by John Stones was intercepted by Sadio Mane who easily outsprinted Nicolas Otamendi and only had Willy Caballero to beat before he fell under a challenge from the defender and the keeper stretched out an arm to save.

Liverpool appealed for a penalty although replays suggested Oliver had that one right and this was a game that deserved to be decided by the players, not an official, such was the endeavour on show.

City, too, had a couple of penalty claims, first when Aguero claimed he had been pushed by Joel Matip as he slid in to try and meet a Fernandinho cross and then, more blatant, when Raheem Sterling looked to have been impeded by Milner as he tried to connect with a David Silva centre.

That latter attack ended with Fernandinho shooting into the side-netting when he might have done better and, similarly, Silva would have been disappointed with a left-foot shot from 15 yards which sailed just over after Leroy Sane’s near-post shot had been deflected to him off goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

As that half wore on, however, Liverpool looked the likelier scorers with Caballero saving well from Firmino and Adam Lallana’s volley.

By the time the second period kicked off, the rain had eased, but not the pressure or pace of the game, with an early Mane chance being well defended by Stones and the penalty decision following just four minutes into the half.

The penalty clearly unsettled City whose protestations delayed the restart and earned Silva a caution, although they could have quickly been level had Stones not wasted a superb chance, heading wide from a De Bruyne corner.

Liverpool responded on the counter, Philippe Coutinho delaying his pass superbly and sending Firmino clean through only for Caballero to make another vital stop with his legs.

City hit back, with a wayward Aguero header from Silva’s floated ball, and, with the equaliser coming soon after, regained their earlier swagger.

Aguero ran onto Sane’s back-heel but stumbled before Mignolet with the ball breaking for De Bruyne who struck the right-hand post and Liverpool were just as profligate with their best chance of claiming a winner as Firmino pulled the ball back for the unmarked Lallana who inexplicably miskicked from six yards.

Firmino shot into the side-netting on a fast break, Aguero guided a shot just wide from a Silva cross and then volleyed wild and high from a De Bruyne pull back as the concluding few minutes were played out in the same frantic manner as the 90 that preceded them.

Man City (4-1-4-1):

Caballero 8; Fernandinho 7, Stones 6, Otamendi 6, Clichy 6; Toure 5 (Sagna 65, 6); Sterling 6, Silva 7, De Bruyne 5, Sane 7 (Fernando 83, 6); Aguero 7.

Subs not used:

Bravo, Nolito, Kolarov, Iheanacho, Garcia.

Liverpool (4-3-3):

Mignolet 6; Clyne 7, Matip 6, Klavan 6, Milner 7; Wijnaldum 7, Lallana 6, Can 8; Coutinho 6 (Origi 72, 5), Firmino 6 (Lucas 88), Mane 6.

Subs not used:

Karius, Lovren, Moreno, Woodburn, Alexander-Arnold.


M Oliver 5

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