I didn’t think I’d get the chance to watch the Liverpool vs Manchester City game during a recent city break in Milan. To be honest, I didn’t really care either. City haven’t won at Anfield in 15 years in any competition and we put seven past them in two games at our place last season. Not much to see, I thought. Probably another home banker and I get on the ale safe in the knowledge that we’re back on top of the league, if only temporarily at the beginning of October. Well smack my arse and call me Judy, was I wrong!
This wasn’t the same free-flowing Liverpool we had seen decimate City last season. For 25 minutes in the first half, it did look like it was going to be a walkover in our favour. They couldn’t get near us and we seemed to be exploiting Benjamin Mendy to no end down our right-hand side. As I sat in my lovely Italian sports bar after watching AC Milan ease past Chievo Verona earlier in the day (I actually left the San Siro ten minutes early as I had indeed found a bar showing it), I had a sense of “I told you so” come over me. See, I thought, knew we’d beat these.
But then things started to go a little awry. All of sudden we were being smothered in midfield. This was not supposed to happen. It’s us who have the pressure in midfield. It’s meant to be us winning the ball back and pushing forward with pace, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum, not David and Bernardo Silva. What was happening? I watched on through my fingers for the next hour or so as a blue wave crashed over us again and again. How are we meant to stop this?
A goal always looked imminent to me. It seemed like only a matter of time before they’d find a way through, it was bound to happen with the self-proclaimed “best defender in the world” Dejan Lovren at the back. With six minutes to go, City would have their chance to snatch a win but it wasn’t down to Lovren. As Virgil van Dijk went to ground, you just knew what was going to happen. Leroy Sane wasn’t going to let a gift like that go begging. Thank you very much for sticking that leg out, I think I’ll go for a lovely little trip over that. And down he went. And then the whistle went. And then City had a penalty in the eighty-fourth minute of the game. Nightmare.
Riyad Mahrez never looked comfortable when he stepped up. I still thought he’d score but, I don’t know, he just looked…off. Maybe it was the disagreement he had with Gabriel Jesus prior to the penalty being taken which the Sky cameras picked up only after Mahrez had sent his penalty into the Annie Road End that was playing on his mind as he ran up. Whatever it was, it was enough for us to claim a point from the game.
That all seems not very enthusiastic at all, doesn’t it? I can see why you’d think that. What I’m about to say might even contradict the name of this article too, but bear with me. I was actually disappointed to have not won that game. As I said earlier, City were without a win at Anfield in 15 years and we need to be winning games like that if we are to win the league – which is our primary goal this season.
But therein lies the positivity. I was disappointed to not have won. I wasn’t happy that we had just drawn at home with the league champions who had swept aside all put in front of them last season. To me, it wasn’t enough to get a point at home against the team that finished the last campaign with 100 points, a Premier League record. I knew we had enough in us to win that game.
Think back to about a year ago. Better yet, think back two years. Better than that, think back to when Brendan Rodgers was in charge. Could you imagine watching that game and not being happy to claim a point? Because we wouldn’t have even got a point three years ago, two years, not even twelve months ago. Under that pressure, with that amount of attacking talent coming towards, we certainly would have caved and we certainly would have lost.
So, am I happy not to have beaten Manchester City at Anfield eleven days ago? No, but I am happy not to be happy about that. That, in itself as a fan of this club, is progress.