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Title chances and no penalty – 6 talking points from Liverpool 1-1 Man City

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Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes remain in their hands, but they’re off top spot after fighting out a draw at home to Man City.

Liverpool 1-1 Man City

Premier League (28), Anfield
March 10, 2024

Goals: Mac Allister pen 50′; Stones 25′

 

Yet another farcical decision

It was almost the last kick of the game, but that shouldn’t matter – Liverpool should have had another penalty.

When Jeremy Doku raised his boot and caught Alexis Mac Allister on the chest, even Doku was worried that he had given away a last-minute penalty.

And yet the referee, Michael Oliver, didn’t give the penalty and even more baffling, our old friend Stuart Atwell as VAR didn’t even bother to send Oliver to watch a replay.

With just one point separating the top three sides, it looks almost certain to be a decision that proves costly in the title race no matter how the next 10 games play out.

Do these things really even themselves out? It doesn’t seem it this season.

 

Van Dijk stands tall after Klopp’s big calls

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 10, 2024: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk applauds the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Ibrahima Konate‘s midweek injury was one we really could have done without, but Jurgen Klopp opted to stick with a key part of his gameplan regardless: that was to leave Joe Gomez against Phil Foden, at left-back.

It would have been easy to reinstate Andy Robertson and put Gomez central, but the boss clearly felt that was a massive area to get right and with Gomez right-footed, in-form and having good pace, it was instead Jarell Quansah who came in centrally.

Along with a changed goalkeeper by necessity recently and Conor Bradley a current lock-in at right-back, it all meant a very different back five for the Reds than would have been predicted for big fixtures back at the start of the season.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 10, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister celebrates after scoring the his side's first equalising goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Virgil van Dijk was the odd man out, in being the familiar face in a familiar place, and the captain therefore needed to be at his best both in his own performance and in terms of leading the rest of the makeshift, inexperienced gang.

And boy, did he produce. Aside from excellent aerials and covering play, the captain made two vital interventions – one after a rare Quansah misstep – and did enough to see Erling Haaland off one-v-one.

 

The “Anfield factor”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 10, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Much was spoken about Anfield pre-game: if the general populace believed this Man City was stronger than this Liverpool, could the home crowd be an equalising factor?

After a reasonably normal opening, there came a point midway through the half where that roar from the Kop took off on the back of just one or two half-chances.

It certainly lifted the tempo then and did so again after half-time when Liverpool came out fast, scored a penalty and watched City lose their keeper as a result.

Jurgen, typically, played cheerleader on plenty of occasions – demanding more from the crowd after a few chances went begging, most notably after Luis Diaz missed a one-on-one.

Add in furious whistles as City tried to keep possession and plenty of moments where the Kop roused themselves for set pieces and it was definitely a big match atmosphere on the day. Just a shame we couldn’t suck one in right at the end.

 

Alexis the magician

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 10, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister applauds the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Leave aside the goal – this guy is playing right at his peak and has been immense for weeks. He certainly carried that on here, Mac Allister being Liverpool’s best player on the ball.

The weight on his passes were superb, the consistency of them unparalleled.

A second penalty dispatched expertly in the space of three days proved vital of course, and he really should have been awarded a second spot-kick himself – kicked in the chest in the box which was somehow deemed perfectly fine.

Our No.10 is thoroughly worthy of the shirt and has become a massive cog in the team, producing as much good defensive work as attacking impetus on the day.

 

Luis Diaz’s big chances

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 10, 2024: Liverpool's Luis Díaz looks dejected after missing a chance during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

No hiding from it – we had the chances in the second half to win this game and put four points between ourselves and our biggest title rivals.

Most of those fell to the boot of Luis Diaz; while not as easy to bury as perhaps some on TV commentary were making out, the volume of them certainly suggested he should have had his eye in at some stage – and we’ve certainly seen him score more difficult goals before.

The one-on-one, skewed wide while trying to shape into the far corner, was by far the biggest chance.

A ball stuck under his feet when played in was notable too, as was sub keeper Ortega’s save from point-blank range as Nunez slid in.

Will we regret not taking one? Perhaps, but the title is never decided on a single 90 minutes – there are other points to win this term and others we’ve already dropped.

 

Title still in sights but which order of priority for each competition?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 10, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

So we’re certainly still in the title fight, and given City host Arsenal before the end of the campaign, we’re perhaps just about a nose ahead in the three-way fight, despite now being second in the league.

With all 10 remaining games and Liverpool will be champions – but we’ll have to be near-perfect, as always, to hold City at bay.

That is definitely doable for this Liverpool team as we’ve been seeing of late, but mixed in with another two cup competitions, a juggling act is definitely on.

Should we choose to rest for the second leg with Sparta and go full strength next weekend against Man United? It would seem the obvious choice given the scoreline – but Klopp has often simply stayed strong in all competitions until we’re out or triumphant.

That might be costly over the final two months or so of the campaign – or it might land us multiple pieces of silverware. Thankfully, we’ve still got the best in the business making those decisions… until summer, at least.