Philippe Coutinho’s Brazilian magic inspires Liverpool to crucial win over Manchester City
On Sunday afternoon at Anfield, spectators witnessed beauty in football when Liverpool took on Manchester City. A game against the defending champions was always going to be an exertion, given that there was the involvement of midweek European games. Both teams had come away with defeats, albeit Liverpool who had to endure the misery of added time and penalty shoot-out. They only managed to touch down at the John Lennon Airport at around 4:19 AM.
Pellegrini had said, “I think that of course it is an advantage although he concurred himself by stating that it was not a decisive one because the decisive thing is the performance of the day of the game”.
That jitteriness sure showed on the City players on an early afternoon start. City had the option of closing down the leaders Chelsea’s lead to two points as they weren’t in action this weekend. Instead, it was Liverpool, who were out of the blocks in a flash, raring to go. It seemed there had been some sort of an adrenaline rush. Compared to that, Manchester City looked as if they were caught in a stupor. Coutinho took it upon himself to illuminate the game. Having been rested in midweek for the Europa league exertions, he seemed to have put a spring in his step, and he seemed to have carried on his form from last week’s fixture against Southampton.
A magnetising presence in the midfield, Liverpool did the early running (not literally though), as they looked to move the ball more quickly than their players. The use of Coutinho’s energy and incisiveness was central to the plan, and they sparingly used the pace of other players.
Sterling has been a revelation since his return from Jamaica, rejuvenated and re-energized and it was he, along with Lallana and Moreno who were involved in the attacking play. Henderson, taking responsibility as captain, was making runs from the deep, which the midfield of Fernandinho and Yaya Toure failed to deal with.
Henderson leads by example
When the goal came as early as the 11th minute, it wasn’t a surprise. The surprise though was the goalscorer, Henderson, who curled in a beauty. The lead up to the goal though had been nothing short of slackness. A series of errors, firstly Fernandinho and then Kompany allowed Coutinho to run into space who fed Sterling.
Sterling sensing that there was not enough time to make an incision through the heart of the defence spread it out to his left, where Henderson was arriving from deep. The series of errors had left Zabaleta out of position and Henderson then produced the first beauty of the game when he cut in and curled in a brilliant shot, way beyond the despairing Joe Hart.
The goal though stirred some life into the City team as soon enough Silva picked out Aguero who did everything else but finish as his shot came off the post. Showing some of the Champions spirit, Aguero then made a run across the box before making a reverse pass to find his teammate Dzeko, for a decisive finish. Equalizer achieved, the thrill of the game continued as the first half drew to a conclusion.
Manchester City fail to make comeback in second half
Many a game tend to slow down after an entertaining first half, with teams choosing to be safe and secure. Instead, on display was the immense confidence flowing through this Liverpool team, as they took hold of the game. At times, it was doubtful regarding the validity of the champions. As Jacob Steinberg, had pointed out in the Guardian, “Funny team, City. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get from them. If they fancy it, this could be a very difficult afternoon for Liverpool, yet there are times when this hugely talented team simply cannot be bothered, when they stroll out the tunnel, look around and go ‘Not today, lads”. This appeared the cases as City were swept off the field.
And it was no surprise when the star of the match Coutinho curled in a beauty to go one step better than Henderson. Zabaleta, was he at fault again? Maybe, for the first one, but here it was the backlift and creation of space by the mercurial Brazillian that completely wrong-footed the defenders.
A flurry of yellow cards ensued as Mark Clattenburg, looked to bring some sensibility to a game which was becoming more stretched by the minute. It seemed at the time that Manchester City would make the breakthrough, but that incisiveness was constantly lacking. Instead, Liverpool had the luxury of introducing Daniel Sturridge from the bench. As Liverpool, looked to extend the lead, it was Yaya Toure who was being hustled off the ball.
Coutinho and Sturridge did get opportunities to extend the lead and there was a moment of confusion in stoppage time when the City defenders and Hart almost gifted a goal. But as it was to be, Aguero, one of the better performers for City on the afternoon, even he mishit a shot thus summing up the afternoon that could only be termed as bitter.