The first meeting between Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City took place at Anfield in December 2016 and then a lot of hype, turned out to be an anticlimax: a low-quality encounter that ended in narrow win for the hosts. The teams met again four months later at the Etihad Stadium and this time there was no disappointment. The game was a huge whirlwind, full of speed, skill, aggression and ambition, as both sides faced each other from the beginning. There were two goals, a James Milner penalty in the 51st minute annulled by a Sergio Agüero goal shortly after, and there would have been more had it not been for the poor definition of both teams. This was a breathless contest marked by moments of drama and controversy: Milner was fortunate not to be sent off for a first-half foul on Raheem Sterling, a forerunner of what was to come.
The first meeting of the teams of the new season was less of a contest and more of a beating. City destroyed Liverpool with Kevin de Bruyne especially great for hosts. The visitors had no answer for the Belgian, or how to deal with 10 players after Sadio Mané was sent off in the 37th minute for an accidental but reckless collision with Ederson that caused the goalkeeper to be carried on a stretcher. By Klopp’s admission, Liverpool weakened after the red card, conceding two goals each from Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sané, after Agüero’s first game in the 24th minute, and this was almost certainly a game, along with others for come. notably against Tottenham, to make it clear to the German that he needed Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool had failed to sign the Dutchman from Southampton that summer, but he wouldn’t deny it in January.
Van Dijk had completed his £ 75 million move to Anfield by the time City arrived for this game, but did not show up due to hamstring strain. That, in part, explained another uneven defensive performance by Liverpool but, in reality, the story was how aggressive and explosive they were in attack, especially during a nine-minute period in the second half when Roberto Firmino, Mané and especially spectacular, Mohamed Salah scored to make it 4-1. Was that Front three in full flow. City fought back, with Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gündogan scoring at the end to join Sané’s goal in the 40th minute, which canceled Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s opener, but suffered a first loss of the season. No longer invincible, City remained imperious, moving to win the title with a number of historic achievements, including more points (100) and most wins (32) in Premier League history.
It’s not a particularly fun encounter, but that’s because at this stage things had gotten very serious between these sides. They were the top two and indeed this was decisive for the title, with Liverpool traveling to Manchester seven points clear of City and really just needing a draw. City had to win to save the championship and did so thanks to goals from Agüero and Sané on both sides of a header from Firmino. Through a combination of determination and quality, and encouraged by a raucous crowd, they had cut the gap and would retain the title at the end of an absorbing careerWhile for Liverpool there was finally a sense of what could have been, given the John Stones clearance of an opportunity that technology showed was just 1 1/2 inches from crossing the line. There was also a sense of injustice after Vincent Kompany’s two-foot lunge on Salah that resulted in a reserve for the City captain, but probably should have led to a red.
The last time Liverpool and City met in front of the spectators and one that most of those inside Anfield fully enjoyed. The hosts gave a full performance; safe in the back and deadly in attack, with Fabinho, Salah and Mané scoring the goals that restored Liverpool’s eight-point lead at the top and put them well and truly on track for that. first title in 30 years. Bernardo Silva recovered a goal for City, but they were well beaten, although the visitors could argue that things would have been different if Michael Oliver had awarded them penalties for two balls involving Trent Alexander-Arnold. Failure to award the latter led to Guardiola tossing two fingers skyward and repeatedly yelling “Twice!”, And at that point this particular rivalry had brought something more memorable and noteworthy: a meme.
Three months after Liverpool defeated City at Anfield, they did it again, this time in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final. Amid the din of a classic European night at Anfield, the hosts flew out of the traps, flew over their opponents and scored three times in 31 minutes, courtesy of Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mané. City were in shock and their cause had not been helped by Guardiola’s strange tactical approach, namely playing with Aymeric Laporte on the left back and Gündogan instead of Sterling on the right back. He had clearly been freaked out by what had happened in league play, but the tinkering only had the effect of destabilizing and confusing his team. It was also a sign of things to come in regards to Guardiola’s approach to crunchy Champions League matches. Liverpool, meanwhile, won the second leg at the Etihad 2-1 and advanced to the final in Kiev, where they lost to Real Madrid. Loris Karius and all that.