Liverpool 4 Manchester City 3
Sunday 14th January 2018 : Kenneth Cooper for
GYKO at Anfield
“Still human”, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had said
of Manchester City on Thursday, before he and his risk-taking
Liverpool team went and proved it on Sunday – and then almost
re-asserted it about themselves. The league leaders at least won’t
enjoy the immortality of an unbeaten season, as their run stops at
30 games. It wasn’t just City’s sense of invincibility that will
have gone, though, but also some of their aura as Liverpool got at
them in a way no-one else has this season.
They mostly made Pep Guardiola’s side look like the team that
shipped four goals across the park at Everton a year ago, rather
than the one that looks like it could win four trophies this year.
That’s how ruthless and relentless Liverpool were, reflected in
every one of their emphatic goals for this 4-3 win. Rarely has
Ederson looked so exposed and vulnerable, so brutally beaten. It was
proof that proper proactivity is the way to get at them.
The gap really should have been bigger, except Jurgen Klopp’s side
too readily displayed some of their own vulnerabilities, and City
That it went so close was still somewhat fitting mind, given the
risks inherent to the German’s approach and how he was willing to
both take the game to City and take strong decisions. Simon Mignolet
was dropped, maybe to finally be discarded, for Loris Karius to come
in. Liverpool’s actions ensured that was barely worthy of words by
the end, even though he may have made an error.
From the start, Klopp looked to win the game through typically
all-in tactics, to go with an all-in personnel decision. Liverpool
were offering the kind of play the German would idealise, especially
against a possession side, by pinning City right back with
rigorously targeted pressing. It wasn’t just the pace of Mohamed
Salah and Sadio Mane that was disrupting the leaders playing out
from the back, but also the threat of it. It said a lot when the
normally-so-assured Ederson opted to hit the ball long for
kick-outs, rather than risk spreading out to very withdrawn
full-backs who looked susceptible to being pounced upon.
That was a regular occurrence throughout the evening.
As if to only emphasise how Klopp’s side were imposing themselves on
City, the first goal came from something we have seen a lot through
the German’s managerial career, but not enough from Liverpool in the
last three years: a burst from midfield. It is something we haven’t
seen enough of from Oxlade-Chamberlain in that time either, but that
is perhaps just more proof of Klopp’s effect. He surged through the
middle and powered a drive past Ederson.
City did eventually regain midfield control, allowing Leroy Sane to
eventually restore parity. The winger took the ball with his chest
beautifully, and took his goal brutally, even if there were
questions to be asked of Karius.
Really, though, it was the only period in the game – and an
all-too-brief one at that – that Liverpool players were even putting
a foot wrong.
They were instead forcing City to do that. It was one of those
afternoons when everything went perfectly for the players from one
side, right down to the purity of the finishes for their goals, and
one of those were almost everything went wrong for all of those from
It was not just Ederson that suddenly look vulnerable. Fernandinho
was getting beaten in challenges, Sane misplacing passes and De
Bruyne – of all people – looking so lightweight. This was the thing.
Liverpool made City look like City 2015/16 rather than 2017/18.
That was most visible with the prematurely withdrawn Sterling. Once
again, he seemed to let a crowd still angry at his departure get
into his head, as he played poor pass after poor pass and then
responded with one overly robust and clearly frustrated bad foul.
Stones was meanwhile the opposite, as if incapable of such force.
Like his team with the game, he badly misjudged a move after
half-time, for the goal that sparked the spree.
Roberto Firmino easily brushed him off the ball in the way that
Robbie Fowler did to Gary Neville in October 1995, and then finished
with similar flair, chipping Ederson for the ball to go in off the
There was a similarly pure conviction about Liverpool’s next two
goals, as they again ruthlessly punished City errors. Sane thundered
the ball into the top corner after a despairing Otamendi slip, Salah
scored from distance from a desperate Ederson clearance.
The fact both goals went in in the scarcely believable way they did
best summed up the way Liverpool were playing – at least in attack.
It wouldn’t be Liverpool or a Klopp side if they didn’t betray some
vulnerability and defensive porousness.
Bernardo Silva pulled one back on 84 minutes before Ilkay Gundogan
brought City – and everyone’s emotions – right to the brink on the
90. There was one more scare as a Sergio Aguero header flashed wide
before being flagged offside, as everyone in the ground suddenly
Liverpool: Karius, Robertson, Gomez, Lovren, Matip, Mané (Klavan
92) Can (Milner 78), Salah (Lallana 86), Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain,
Unused subs Solanke, Alexander-Arnold, Mignolet, Ings
City: Santana de Moraes, Stones, Delph (Danilo 30),
Otamendi, Walker, Fernandiho, Gündogan, De Bruyne, Sterling
(Bernardo 70) Sané, Agüero
Unused subs Silva, Zinchenko, Diaz, Bravo, Mangala
Referee : Andre Marriner
Attendance : 53285
Manchester City 2 Bristol City
1 Semi Final Scare
Tuesday 9th January 2018 : GYKO at the Etihad
Manchester City may be blowing all and sundry away in top-flight but
the Premier League leaders seem to find second-tier opponents
somewhat more problematic. Bristol City were all but a few minutes
away from becoming the second Championship side to come to the
Etihad, derail the juggernaut and hold Pep Guardiola’s team in this
season’s EFL Cup.
At half-time, Lee Johnson’s visitors were even hopeful of inflicting
Manchester City’s first home defeat in over a year, as a first-half
performance of organised defending and assertive counter-attacking
ended with Bobby Reid winning and converting a penalty.
Yet Guardiola’s side is developing a knack for winning late and
after a night of wasteful finishing, their most trusted frontman
saved face late on. After striking back through Kevin De Bruyne
early on in the first half, substitute Sergio Aguero sent Bristol’s
travelling supporters home unhappy, rising to head in a
Though disappointed, Bristol City, Johnson and those supporters will
not leave without hope. Their display, combined with their
elimination of Manchester United in the previous round, suggest they
still stand an outside chance of reaching a Wembley final when the
two teams reconvene at Ashton Gate in a fortnight’s time.
Johnson played in midfield for Bristol City when these two sides in
met in this competition over a decade ago and was the sole survivor
from that night, save his kitman and former team-mate Scott Murray.
Back then, in the summer of 2007, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s City side
required a late Rolando Bianchi goal to edge into the third round of
this competition. How times have changed.
Whereas a run to semi-finals would have been considered a notable
success in those days, the EFL Cup is now some way down the list of
priorities, even at this late stage of the tournament. Yet even
though Guardiola named what could be called a weakened line-up, the
four changes included a four-time African Footballer of the Year, a
£43m summer signing and the outstanding player of the Premier League
season so far.
Bristol City were duly dominated for the opening quarter of an hour
but, backed by a strong away following singing in a south-western
accent, Johnson’s side surprisingly withstood the early pressure.
More surprisingly still, the visitors threatened to find
Manchester City, nevertheless, should have scored the opener and
broke Bristol City’s resolve. Bernardo was particularly wasteful in
the opening 45 minutes, shanking several efforts wide when
converting just one would have quietened the raucous away end. Kevin
De Bruyne did better, forcing Fielding into the best save of the
first half with a curling shot from the left flank.
Then, as half-time neared, sloppiness at the front was matched by
sloppiness at the back and Bristol took a lead that nobody at the
start of the night had seen coming. Josh Brownhill, a boyhood City
fan and former United youth player, brilliantly robbed a careless
Eliaquim Mangala of possession in midfield then played in Reid. John
Stones’ attempt to win the ball back in his own area was mis-timed
and left referee Anthony Taylor with no choice. Having won the
penalty, Reid converted it, firing underneath Bravo’s right hand.
Johnson’s side were on the verge of an improbable half-time lead,
though if not for a remarkable clearance by Aden Flint on the cusp
of the interval, Manchester City would have levelled before the
break. Raheem Sterling, operating as a lone striker with Sergio
Aguero benched, looked destined to equalise when he chipped the
onrushing Fielding but from underneath his own crossbar, Flint found
enough space to head the effort over.
For the second time in the space of four days, after also trailing
at half time in Saturday’s 4-1 FA Cup victory over Burnley,
Manchester City’s unbeaten record on this ground was in jeopardy. A
mis-hit clearance by Bravo in the opening stages of the second half
and Ilkay Gundogan’s furious reaction said much about their
performance so far.
The goalkeeper atoned a few short minutes later with a pass that
initiated the equaliser. Bravo’s arced through ball while under
pressure in his own six-yard found De Bruyne in midfield and the
Belgian began haring up the pitch. Bristol City’s defence backed off
him all the way, right up to their own area, at which point he
slotted the ball to Sterling and waited for a return pass. When it
came, he had ample time to fire high past Fielding and level.
From there on, the sense was that Bristol City’s moment had been and
gone. Johnson’s visitors lost their counter-attacking edge from the
first half and looked a little shakier at the back to boot, but
without a natural, recognised striker to call on, Manchester City’s
attack still seemed blunt. Aguero was eventually brought on, moments
after Sterling had fired straight at Fielding from point-blank
The Argentine’s introduction eventually had the desired effect as
stoppage time approached. Bernardo made up for his litany of missed
chances in the first half by providing an inch-perfect cross that
hung in the air just long enough for Aguero to rise above his marker
and head home powerfully. It was a late reprieve that Manchester
City’s finishing and Bristol’s otherwise resolute defending had not
||Manchester City (4-3-3): Bravo; Danilo, Stones,
Mangala, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Touré, Gundogan; Bernardo,
Substitutes: Ederson, Walker, Aguero, Delph, Fernandinho,
Bristol City (4-4-1-1): Fielding; Wright, Baker,
Flint, Magnusson; Brownhill, Pack, Smith, Bryan; Paterson;
Substitutes: Steele, Vyner, Kelly, Eliasson, Walsh, Engvall,
Referee: A Taylor (Cheshire Attendance
Manchester City 4 Burnley 1
Burnley Turfed Out
Saturday 6th January 2018 : GYKO at the Etihad
Any suggestion that Pep Guardiola is not interested in a Manchester
City tilt at an unprecedented quadruple was belied by his reaction
as Sergio Agüero equalised in the 56th minute.
The goal came from Ilkay Gündogan’s quickly taken free-kick, which
displeased Sean Dyche and his assistant, Ian Woan, causing the
Manchester City manager to go into hyperactive mode, making what
appeared to be yapping actions with his hands at them. If there was
any sense the Catalan might not have been too displeased at being
knocked out and so lose one of the four competitions City can still
win, the passion at levelling this FA Cup third-round tie was the
During the dispute, Guardiola was told by Andy Haines, the fourth
official, to calm down. Asked about the incident and what he told
Dyche and Woan, the Catalan said: “I am sorry, I apologise. I didn’t
want to lose control. I said: ‘Please leave the referees.’ I have a
lot of respect for the way they play – of course, the way they play
is completely different than the way we want to play, but they do it
perfectly. That’s why football is top. All the managers around the
world, especially here, have to do their job. Of course, they
[managers] have to keep control. If they were offended, I am so
Dyche denied there had been a falling-out with Guardiola. “Not
really,” he said. “You both fight, you both want your teams to win.
You’re allowed to show your passion, right?”
Guardiola’s declaration he would field a strong XI was borne out by
his selection. While there were four changes – Claudio Bravo,
Danilo, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gündogan – David Silva, Leroy Sané,
Agüero, Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling were among those in the
side. Dyche also brought in a quartet, in Matt Lowton, Kevin Long,
Ashley Westwood and Sam Vokes.
City attacked from the opening whistle and won a corner that Sané
played short to Zinchenko. Eventually, Sterling let fly, the shot
was blocked, and Burnley cleared. For a while, the home side camped
inside Burnley’s half and rolled the ball around. When Ashley
Westwood fouled Agüero on the edge of the area, City had a free-kick
in optimum position. Gündogan smashed this at the wall, though, and
Zinchenko skied the rebound.
Some suspect goalkeeping from Bravo followed. Zinchenko passed to
the Chilean and, in trying to find Nicolás Otamendi, he hit the ball
out for a corner. Johann Berg Gudmundsson fired this in, Bravo was
nowhere, and Ben Mee headed back across goal, exposing the one
faultline in Guardiola’s team: the rearguard.
When Burnley did this again, they took the lead. Their keeper, Nick
Pope, launched a high ball, John Stones miskicked badly, and Barnes
roved forward, then smacked a finish past Bravo.
City’s first act of the second half was a raking Danilo ball that
hit Sané on a right-left diagonal.
Zinchenko darted into the area, but the wide man overcooked the
pass. Later, Sané ballooned a cross straight out, in a further
indication that, so far, this was an off-day.
Silva rarely has these and the clever pass that went through
Stones’s legs to Gündogan in the area illustrated his usual
excellence. Gündogan, though, failed to shoot and Burnley cleared.
The equaliser came from the quick free-kick that led to Dyche’s and
Woan’s spat with Guardiola. As this started to calm down, Agüero
slotted a 19th goal of the campaign – and 16 in 16 Cup outings –
after a delightful Gündogan back-heel that removed Burnley’s
Of the Argentinian, Guardiola said: “His quality in the box is
amazing and we need his goals. He’s the kind of player who [as
today] doesn’t do much in the first half, but, in seconds, he scores
two goals. If we want to win something he’s essential for us.”
From here, City coasted, Sané finally finding high gear to slide in
for a ninth goal of the season. He then became provider, picking out
the substitute Bernardo Silva, who made it 4-1, seven minutes from
City: Bravo, Zinchenko (Walker 72), Otamendi, Stones,
Danilo, Silva, Fernandinho, Gündogan (De Bruyne 76),
Sterling, Sané, Agüero (Bernardo 79)
Unused subs Ederson, Touré, Diaz, Mangala
Burnley: Pope, Mee, Long, Lowton, Taylor, Westwood, Cork
(Wells 75’), Barnes, Berg, Gudmundsson (Walters 75),
Unused subs Ulvestad, Bardsley, Defour, Wells,
Walters, Lindegaard, Marney
Referee : Graham Scott
Attendance : 53,356
Manchester City 3 Watford 1
Back in Business
Tuesday 2nd January 2018 : GYKO at the Etihad
The show is back on the road. After the briefest
of blips at Selhurst Park on New Year’s Eve, Manchester City began
what could well be their next record-breaking run of consecutive
victories with a comfortable win over Marco Silva’s
Raheem Sterling’s first-minute opener banished any lingering thought
of the goalless draw at Crystal Palace and when visiting defender
Christian Kabasele converted the ball into his own net inside the
opening quarter of an hour, victory was never in doubt.
Sergio Aguero scored his customary goal against this opposition,
adding a third in a sedate second half, and though Andre Gray’s late
consolation will not have pleased Pep Guardiola, by that stage his
side were certain of restoring their 15-point lead at the top of the
Premier League table.
The gap could be cut by one point if Chelsea win at Arsenal on
Wednesday night, but what the chasing pack do is becoming more
irrelevant with each passing week at the Etihad. This has the
potential to be a historic year for City and this victory was a
suitable way to start it.
It took them just 39 seconds to score the fastest goal of the
Premier League season so far and ensure that they would not draw
successive league blanks for the first time in the Guardiola era.
David Silva, back in the starting line-up after a spell away due to
personal matters, slid one of his trademark through balls in behind
Watford's backline to Leroy Sané on the left flank. His first-time
cross arced its way to the far post where Sterling was waiting to
finish off the simplest of his 18 goals so far this season. It was
John Stones, another returnee, should have added the second minutes
later after more good work from Sané on the left but the defender,
making his first start since November following a hamstring injury,
blazed over the crossbar. The Etihad was not too concerned. Five
minutes in and a goal up, City were already in total control.
Guardiola’s side eventually doubled their lead after 13 minutes,
though it was a Watford player who applied the final touch.
Christian Kabasele’s sliding attempt to intercept Kevin De Bruyne’s
low cross was sloppy and duly punished, with the ball looping past
Heurelho Gomes and into the corner of the net.
De Bruyne was a surprise inclusion having left the Selhurst Park
pitch on a stretcher two days previous, but the outstanding player
of this Premier League season looked both unscathed and unfazed by
Jason Puncheon’s horror tackle. Shortly after his cross had helped
increase City’s lead, he almost added a third, cracking a free-kick
against the bar.
Watford steadied themselves as the first half progressed and had
chances of their own before the break, the best of which fell to
Andre Gray. It was the type of opportunity that away sides who
travel to the Etihad with modest expectations simply have to take
but the visitors’ lone striker fired straight at Ederson.
It was a timely warning against complacency and suggested that
Watford could yet make this a contest, but Silva’s side failed to
build on that one clear-cut opportunity and gave their hosts few
other reasons to worry for the remainder of the half. City
re-emerged after the break and resumed control, with their share of
possession nearing the 80 per cent mark as they patiently probed in
search of a third.
Aguero found it shortly after the hour mark. The Argentine, scorer
of a hat-trick in the reverse fixture at Vicarage Road in September,
had spurned his fair share of opportunities in the previous 63
minutes but was on hand to stab the ball home from close range after
Gomes had parried another De Bruyne cross into a crowded penalty
area. It was his tenth goal in six appearances against Watford.
If anything, City were now too comfortable and with eight minutes
remaining, Gray atoned for his first-half miss and wiped out what
would have been a fourth consecutive clean sheet for the hosts.
Watford’s consolation was well-worked, with Andre Carrillo beating
Kyle Walker. Ederson failed to cut out the winger’s low cross and
this time, Gray could not miss, tapping in at the far post.
Watford’s tails were up for the closing stages and the visitors
caused a complacent City more problems than they had previously
managed but this late show of endeavour failed to produce any clear
chances. The game had been won since the 39th second.
||Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson;
Walker, Stones (Danilo 67), Otamendi, Delph; De Bruyne
(Bernardo 79), Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sané.
Substitutes not used: Bravo, Gundogan, Mangala, Zinchenko.
Watford (4-2-3-1): Gomes; Janmaat, Wagué, Kabasele,
Zeegelaar; Doucouré, Watson (Pereyra 61); Carrillo, Capoue (Cleverley
61), Richarlison (Sinclair 82); Gray.
Substitutes not used: Karnezis, Prodl, Mariappa, Holebas.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire)
Attendance : 53556