How the terrorising trios shaped up at the Etihad

The pace and intensity of City’s front three was so impressive, so ferocious, that this time they looked a step ahead of Liverpool’s equivalent.

How the terrorising trios shaped up at the Etihad

Manchester City

Sane-Aguero-Sterling

The pace and intensity of City’s front three was so impressive, so ferocious, that this time they looked a step ahead of Liverpool’s equivalent.

These three really are the Manchester City version of Manchester United’s Holy Trinity (Best, Law and Charlton for the uninitiated) and each made their own, vital, contribution.

Aguero, in particular, looked like a man on a mission, somehow finding an extra gear beyond even what he has contributed in the past.

He was already City’ stand-out player long before he put them ahead — and the quality of his goal was remarkable.

A wonderful touch to beat Dejan Lovren in the box set up an opportunity which only he could finish, rifling an unstoppable shot high into the net from a tight angle. Simply world class.

Sane was on top form too, his sheer pace and power frightening Liverpool time and time again, and his lethal left-foot finish was the winning strike on a heady night at the Etihad.

The only criticism, perhaps, was that there was such a large gap between Sterling and his teammates early in the game that the kind of interplay which Liverpool’s Fab Three specialise in was not possible.

The second goal, however, highlighted what City’s front three can do when they get it right. Sterling broke free, teased the Liverpool defence and laid off the perfect pass for Sane to finish.

What makes this trio so impressive is that each player brings such different strengths to the party and all work so hard for the cause.

How the Liverpool defenced coped

Virgil van Dijk, as usual, was a man mountain, blocking shots, timing his tackles and positioning himself well but his partner Dejan Lovren had a far tougher time.

How Liverpool must wish they could get Joe Gomez back from injury more quickly. The Croatian international lost Leroy Sane in the build-up to Sergio Aguero’s goal, when he was outpaced down the flank and was then left for dead by the Argentine for the strike which put City ahead.

He was also booked for taking out Aguero with a terrible tackle in the first half and struggled all match, failing to prevent Sane racing past him for City’s ultimate winner.

Liverpool’s full-backs fared a little better, contributing a lot going forward too, but City always seemed to have the edge.

LIVERPOOL

Mane-Firmino-Salah

We all know what Liverpool’s front players can contribute and they will probably reflect that they didn’t hit top form this time.

On the positive side, the trio sliced through City’s defence to create the first big chance of the first half which saw Mane hit the post and Salah almost convert the rebound.

But they weren’t at full power in a match when Liverpool really needed it.

Mane was later substituted after 76 minutes in favour of Shaqiri and the reality was that, just for once, Liverpool’s attacking heroes couldn’t match the pace and intensity of City’s men.

Goals are what count, of course, and Firmino, despite being a peripheral figure for long periods, was able to find the net when he headed home Andrew Robertson’s cross to give Liverpool brief hope — so give him credit for that.

Salah also went agonisingly close to an equaliser when he sliced a left-foot shot past the post, one of those efforts which in the past would have nestled in the net.

The end verdict, however, has to be that the front three who bullied City out of the Champions League last season were second best this time. It was a day when the speakers blew on Liverpool’s heavy metal football.

How the City defenders coped

City’s centre-halves will be pleased with how they coped against an attacking trio which has got the best of them on so many occasions in the past.

Vincent Kompany, always influential, was booked early on for a clattering professional foul on Salah – no bad thing in the context of the game and Laporte – and organised his defence well before going off injured late on.

Then there was John Stones’ remarkable goalline clearance to consider after Mane hit the post, a moment of genius which could help turn a season.

Liverpool were made to wait 24 minutes before having a shot on goal and City restricted them to few clear-cut chances until a frantic finale.

There remain doubts at full-back, however. Liverpool’s only goal came when Danilo, who had a poor night, failed to track Robertson on the end of a cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold (who had been allowed to forage forward by Aymeric Laporte.

City won’t be too worried about that but some of their rivals will have noticed.

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox