Liverpool 1 City 1
Report by Ian Bason
With none of the regular match reporters available, my first trip to Anfield saw me making mental notes throughout the trip. The selection panel of 3 in the car all agreed that given the successes against Chelsea and Man City, and having conceded 4 at Wolves, that the team selection would see the return to the defensive midfield three against the table toppers, but this is Claude (who appears to tinker more than Claudio), so when the team was announced 3 changes to the Wolves line up, with Morgan, Simpson and Barnes all benched in favour of Evans, Allbrighton and Maddison.
The discussion over the excellent value £4 for fish, chips and mushy peas from a local chippy (which would have cost double that in the ground) was whether we could finally make a good start to a game.
We kicked off, and we instantly wondered why Allbrighton had started in central midfield and while we were busy trying to work that one out, we had a quick answer to our chippy debate, as Mane waltzed through the defence and tucked the ball in the bottom corner after 3 minutes.
For the next 10 minutes we feared more goals were to follow, with Maddison not keeping wide and Chilwell being drawn forward while being overloaded with Shaqiri plus one other, it felt like a matter of time and only a good save from Kasper from Firmino and Mane putting the ball wide meant we held on.
Then Claude switched Allbrighton to the right, Grey left and Maddison to the centre who instantly came more into the game and for the rest of the half City were the better side. Having heard the hearty rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before kick off, City’s growing confidence resulted in a subdued home support, leading to several “Is this a library” chants from the 2,900 away contingent.
Like most top clubs, many in the home section closest to us visiting fans, came into the “tourist” category of people at the game, an observation made by the friendly nearby steward pre-match, the half/half scarves giving this indication.
At the other end of pitch there looked a good shout for a penalty when Maddison went down, but I haven’t seen a replay to know if the ref waving away any appeals was the correct decision. Another key referring decision followed when Mcguire made significant contact with Mane, and while he seemed to indicate that he didn’t see Mane coming, as the ref went for his pocket I feared a last man red card may appear, albeit it was nearer the half way line, but a yellow was shown
A few minutes prior to that booking and City were now looking the more likely to score and as we were already on our feet, as the ball came to Maddison, we were jumping as a start of celebrating when somehow his header went wide. Just as I was settling for a one goal half time deficit, Liverpool failed with several attempts to clear from a corner the last attempt was met by a powerful Chillwell header from the edge of the box which found Mcguire unmarked to tuck the ball into the corner. 1- 1 and after a poor start we started to look forwards to the second half.
Other than the half time ball competitions on the pitch, watching the groundsmen clearing all the snow in the penalty area that Liverpool would attack but not touch the other end seemed an unfair practice, although it did remove the risk of our defenders slipping over and enable better ball control, so perhaps backfired. Is it time the authorities should consider if this practice (along with only watering one end of the pitch) is acceptable?
As the second half progressed City created a number of chances, the best of which came in the 72nd minute when Gray opted to shoot having failed to look up to see Maddison who had made a good run into the box and would have had a tap in.
Claude then decided it was time to show the players his plan for game management by replacing Maddison with Choudhury who was asked to play a defensive wide right, with Allbrighton switched to the left and Gray behind Vardy. In part I suspect this was to allow Ricardo to go on forward runs with better security behind him for break away’s.
Although Liverpool had a growing level of possession as we sat deeper, there were no serious threats on goal, with one the greatest threat being another Mane run stopped by a superb sliding challenge by Choudury. City started running down the clock with late substitutions replacing Gray and Vardy with Okazaki and Iheanacho.
1-1 it finished, and more points taken from a top 6 side. Performance wise, it was Mcguire’s and Ndidi’s best showing for some time, although I would have given my man of the match to Ricardo. Is now the time to give the Evans and Mcguire partnership a run of games ?
Now the challenge is to give the 29,000+ home fans a good performance, rather than saving our best for the travelling Blue Army. Perhaps the visit of Man Utd, with the more attacking intent of their new manager, will provide a game more suited to our current squad
With the loan signing of Youri Tielemans confirmed tonight, it will be interesting to see how he is utilised in the games ahead, can he provide the additional creativity to break down the stubborn defences we struggle to beat ?
City (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Ricardo Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Ndidi, Mendy; Gray (Okazaki 83), Albrighton, Maddison (Choudhury 75); Vardy (Iheanacho 89), Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Simpson, Barnes
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation