Premier League champions Man City saw their unbeaten start to the league campaign come to an end on Sunday as Liverpool inflicted them their first defeat, running out 1-0 winners in Merseyside. The result means Reds centre-back Virgil Van Dijk’s record of not losing a single league game remains intact, despite the visit of the world’s most in-form striker Erling Haaland.
Contrary to what the scoreline may suggest, the game was a fiery encounter, with both sides eager to make a point, albeit for different reasons. Liverpool were much improved from their defeat at Arsenal the week before. The Reds were much better defensively in terms of their structure and solidity, which may be as a result of Trent Alexander-Arnold being dropped to the bench following a horrid time up against Gabriel Martinelli last weekend.
Liverpool became only the second team to keep City from scoring this season, along with FC Copenhagen who kept the Manchester club out in their UEFA Champions League clash last week.
Furthermore, the Reds were able to stop Haaland from scoring at Anfield again, after netting for RB Salzburg against Liverpool in the 2019/2020 UCL campaign. The striker has been in tremendous form this season, netting 15 goals in 9 league games prior to Sunday’s again, but was marshalled well by centre-back duo Van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
Van Dijk admitted before the game that Haaland is a striker that gives defender’s nightmares, but still dealt with the Norwegian admirably. The victory extends the Dutch star’s incredible record of never being on the losing side of a game at Anfield since his arrival in Liverpool in January 2018.
However, Van Dijk had his defensive partner Gomez to help him out as the previously-capped English centre-back put in a Man of the Match performance against a City side that still average over three goals per league game, despite hitting a blank on Sunday.
“It takes a lot,” said Van Dijk after the game. “Good to get three points. It was always going to be very intense, that’s what has always been happening over the last years. It was nothing different today. First half I think we played quite well, didn’t give much away. I don’t think we created too much either. Second half we had to defend a bit more and we had chances on the break to even score more. But we won and that’s the most important thing.”
“Obviously today if you drop off a slight percentage then obviously they will punish you. We did very well. It’s important to get the clean sheet and move on, we’ll focus now on West Ham.”
The game became very frenetic in the second half as tensions began to boil over from both sides.
An altercation between Salah and Bernardo Silva near the City box sent the Anfield crowd into a frenzy as the referee allowed play to continue, much to the dismay of the home faithful.
Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp took major exception to the lack of ruling over the alleged foul and went crazy on the touchline in the ears of both the fourth official and the linesman closest to the incident. Referee Anthony Taylor then showed the German coach a red card, condemning Klopp to the stands for the remainder of the game.
Following the match, the Liverpool boss apologised for his actions, labelling it as ‘not okay’ whilst still being evidently baffled with the decision.
“It is about emotion, of course,” said Klopp after the game. “So red card, my fault, I went over the top in the moment. I don’t think I was disrespectful to anybody but if you look at the pictures… I know myself, I am 55 and the way I look at that moment is already worth a red card.
“I lost it in that moment and that’s not okay but a little bit as an excuse I would like to mention how can you not whistle that foul (on Salah), how on Earth is that possible?
“During the game I agreed with Pep completely that Anthony Taylor just let the things run, but why would you do that? I’ve heard now that people said it was Anfield that made the VAR decision. It is a foul on Fabinho. Is it not enough to pull someone down?” asked Klopp in response to comments made by City boss Pep Guardiola.
Pep was livid at the decision to rule out a Phil Foden strike while the game was still level. The referee initially awarded the goal, but was asked to reconsider his decision by the VAR team. Once this happens, it’s essentially guaranteed the refs will overturn their decision. And that’s exactly what happened.
Guardiola was evidently animated in the dugout as Foden’s goal was disallowed for a foul committed by Haaland in the build-up.
After the game, the former Barcelona coach was visibly upset during his interview, throwing a dig at the referees and how they crumbled under the pressure of the Anfield crowd.
“The referee came to the coaches and said play on, play on,” Guardiola said to Sky Sports. “There were a million fouls. But after we scored a goal, he decided it is not play on. This is Anfield.
“We had [enough] chances. We had some fantastic chances.
“All the game we were brave, we played the game we should play and I don’t have any complaints or regrets over how we have done it.”
The City coach has also accused Liverpool fans of throwing coins at him on Sunday. Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp have issued a statement apologizing to Guardiola on behalf of the fans and have also promised to implement lifetime bans for the perpetrators once found.
The result leaves City four points adrift of league-leaders Arsenal in 2nd place, whilst it also takes Liverpool back up into the top half of the table in 8th position.