Terrace Talk: Man City - More Anfield misery as they forget to turn VAR machines on

Leafing through the Bumper Book of City Swear Words, it is sometimes easy to forget how those well-thumbed pages, with their dubious-looking smudges and deeply ingrained tearstains, got so grubby. It is a body of work that has, on the whole, not been needed much of late, as City have cantered through season after season of gentle trophy gathering.

Terrace Talk: Man City - More Anfield misery as they forget to turn VAR machines on

Leafing through the Bumper Book of City Swear Words, it is sometimes easy to forget how those well-thumbed pages, with their dubious-looking smudges and deeply ingrained tearstains, got so grubby. It is a body of work that has, on the whole, not been needed much of late, as City have cantered through season after season of gentle trophy gathering.

It gets a dusting down once a year, however, during the annual pilgrimage to Anfield, where something always happens to make people go purple in the face.

By half-time, the self-appointed earliest title decider yet was all but done and dusted. Usually these games come rolling at you in late April, early May, but here we were in the second week of November, enveloped by autumn’s thick mists and surrounded by dewy puddles, with commentators getting into a real lather about the final destination of the Premier League trophy.

In the titanic swirl of Gegenpressing versus Death by Possession, the Men Who Matter had completely forgotten to turn their VAR machines on. Death by Video has become a light and much awaited addition to our weekly in-game enjoyment, with its almost unbearable suspense and spine-tingling sense of fun. Suddenly we were left feeling naked and exposed, as an early penalty shout at the Kop end brought no purple half screen and Spirograph lines, just a lightning counter-attack and a Liverpool opener.

Nobody drew a square with their hands. The game did not stop for three-and-a-half minutes to give the crowd a chance to become confused. As performance art goes, this was well below-var.

Back to the Book of Swear Words for brief but needed succor. Had City handled it before Liverpool? Did it matter? What the heck* was going on?

*page 3: gentle swear words for beginners just working up a decent head of steam

We didn’t have long to wait before we were delving the frayed pages some more, searching for that perfect word to describe Kyle Walker, as he left a giant space the size of the Serengeti for Robertson to gallop into, before crossing to Salah for the second.

Stones and the by-now thoroughly frazzled Walker could be seen animatedly discussing the various positions that they could have taken up, had they been thinking straight.

Meanwhile, on the bench, Guardiola slumped into a near horizontal position that you will not find in any of the guidebooks on healthy yoga.

Mentally, City were getting lower too, although the admirable urge to keep converting those little four-yard passes could not be killed completely.

Froth was forming at the corners of Guardiola’s mouth. He was not alone. In the war of the Supercoaches, the tall man was trashing his well-manicured record yet again.

City’s historical paralysis at Anfield has foxed worse minds than Guardiola, of course. Kevin Keegan, that tactical wizard, was the last man to win here wearing a polyester City training top. Before that it was John Bond, in a sheepskin, and the third most recent man to take charge of a winning City team at this venue was wearing a trilby, turn-ups on his tweed trousers, and a trench coat. You couldn’t accuse Les McDowall of being badly turned out. In 1956.

These half-time reveries were beaten back by the sound of baying as the second half got started. Kyle Walker, wearing another of his surprised expressions, watched as Mane slipped in to score again. Sterling, running at the feted Alexander Arnold and twisting the full back’s blood inside out, added more penalty shouts, but the handball rule that did for Aymeric Laporte against Tottenham was not being used at Anfield. It was not a day for VAR, or for asking too many questions.

The flow of a season already badly disrupted by the men with the video games is edging towards a happy ending for Liverpool. This was more a day to beat a hasty retreat, but not before Guardiola had given Michael Oliver a lusty handshake and a heartfelt “Thank you so much”. It wasn’t exactly foul language, but it did the job.

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