The match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield ended in a goalless draw, that failed to live up to the pre-match expectations of the fans. Manchester City came the closest to open the scoring when Riyad Mahrez missed a penalty five minutes from time, but apart from that, the match was a very cagey contest amid the early title race. So why exactly did the match between two title contenders and unbeaten teams fail to live up to our expectations?
The incredibly high stakes led to both teams playing with caution. This was the biggest match of the season so far simply because it was touted as the meeting between two teams who are expected to challenge for the title. The all-out attack – style of play of both Jurgen Klopp and Pep was hampered by the respect the teams have for one another, which led to a game that was low on excitement until the very end. But this was not really a surprise.
When Liverpool played City in the league last year, City had a 15 point lead at the top of the table and the Premier League title was already starting to look like a procession. On the other hand, both teams today played like they didn’t want to give up any ground in the title race which lead to a cloak of caution surrounding Anfield. No Premier League match has had fewer shots in the first half – 3. This in contrast to the high-intensity game that almost everyone expected before kick off.
Do @LFC's players need a rest? 😩
"Somebody has to start thinking of the players, because without them this game is difficult to play."
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 7, 2018
An uncharacteristic but controlled City performance
After the game, Pep said that if you allow Liverpool to run at you, even the best teams will struggle. But City were looking for attacking options, but this time it was more conservative and by far the most assured display from a Guardiola side at Anfield. They slowed the game down and silenced the otherwise ecstatic Anfield crowd for most parts of the game, a performance that was controlled. Liverpool as a result failed to get a shot on target for the first time since 2017 in the first half of a Premier League game. But Manchester City were shackled too. A David Silva shot was the only shot on target for city in the first half too. It may not have been the free-flowing City that has carried it all before it – but it was a more nuanced tactical approach designed to avoid the carnage of last season at Anfield and almost resulted in a crucial victory.
— Premier League (@premierleague) October 7, 2018
The front three fail to fire again
The Liverpool front three were certainly not at their best on Sunday. Pep played out his cards beautifully and covered all aspects of keeping them at bay. Last season, the three forwards played 150 games in all competitions scoring a remarkable 91 goals, with Salah getting 44, Firmino 27, and Mane 20. So far this season they have played 24 games in all competitions and scored nine. There is too much talent for the three to have an impact on Liverpool’s title run as the season goes on, but they are yet to find their feet. Their time will surely come again – and when it does Liverpool’s title aspirations will carry even greater weight.