Man City vs Liverpool: How Etihad showdown and 11mm decided the 2018-19 Premier League title race | Football News

Liverpool take on Man City in a table-topping clash on Sunday at the Etihad, scene of their pulsating title decider three years ago – so will it be just as pivotal an encounter this time?

In January 2019, though, it was Pep Guardiola’s side who were the hunters in a role reversal to this season, when City led Liverpool by 14 points in mid-January, albeit having played two games more than their rivals.

Back then, the Reds arrived in Eastlands holding a healthy seven-point lead after an unbeaten start to their Premier League campaign.

In contrast the champions, as they were back then as well, had suffered a recent slip-up in their title defence, losing at Chelsea and Leicester City and surprisingly 3-2 at home to Crystal Palace in December to seemingly had the title initiative to Liverpool.


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All of which meant it really was a case of win or bust for City when they hosted the leaders on January 3 in front of an expectant audience on Sky Sports – ring any bells? – and boy did the contest live up to all the pre-match hype.

Incredibly, 18 of the 28 players who featured that Thursday night are still on the clubs’ payrolls – and as a sign of just how settled a unit Liverpool have been under Jurgen Klopp since then, the German could feasibly select nine of his XI that evening on Sunday. It could have been all 11 had Joel Matip and Fabinho, who are both likely to play this weekend, started.

The game itself was packed full of drama, incident and intrigue, with the visitors somehow failing to take an 18th-minute lead after a lovely move involving Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, who exchanged passes in a tight space inside City’s half, before the former slipped Sadio Mane through on goal.

The Senegal forward toe-poked his effort past the onrushing Ederson, only for his shot to strike the post, before John Stones’s panicked clearance from the rebound hit his own ‘keeper and looped goalwards as if in slow motion.

Somehow, the City centre-half got back just in time to make a desperate clearance before Salah could tap into any empty net, with the technology revealing the ball was just 11.7mm away from crossing the whole of the goal line.

Gary Neville, commentating on the match at the time for Sky Sports, simply said: “Wow!”

John Stones makes a goal line clearance
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John Stones’s dramatic goal-line clearance

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Manchester City somehow escaped scoring one of the most calamitous own goals in Premier League history as John Stones made a sensational goal line recovery against Liverpool.

That was not the only talking point of the clash, with Klopp furious City captain and central defender Vincent Kompany was not shown a straight red card after lunging in on Salah on the half-hour mark.

“I really like Vincent Kompany,” Klopp told Sky Sports after the game. “I really like him but how on earth is that not a red card?

“He’s the last man, he goes in and if he hits Mo more he’s out for the season.

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Was Vincent Kompany lucky to escape a sending off for a wild lunge on Mohamed Salah in Manchester City’s dramatic win over Liverpool?

“A player goes to ground, and he took the risk. If Mo is on his feet, not jumping, then we all know what happen.

“He is still a really nice guy, he just made a really bad decision.”

Of course, there was no Video Assistant Referee in operation that season – it was introduced the following campaign – with City going on to claim a crucial 2-1 victory thanks to Leroy Sane’s winner 18 minutes from time after Firmino’s close-range header (64) had cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s opener five minutes before half-time.

It was the first time in Guardiola’s 97 Premier League matches in charge of City that his side had enjoyed less possession than their opponents, not that it mattered as the champions – in what their manager had labelled a “must-win game” – got the victory to cut Liverpool’s lead to just four points.

The breathtaking encounter, played in an “atmosphere I’ve never heard before in this stadium,” according to Neville, has since been held up as one of the finest of the Premier League era, while City’s midfield trio of man-of-the-match Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva and David Silva were dubbed “unreal” by the Sky Sports pundit.

Many forget, though, that City actually then suffered a shock 2-1 loss at struggling Newcastle United at the end of January to seemingly hand the title initiative straight back to Liverpool, only for the Reds themselves to fail to capitalise after being held 1-1 at home by Leicester City the following night.

Man City Liverpool
Sergio Aguero runs from goal in celebration after giving Manchester City the lead
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Sergio Aguero runs from goal in celebration after giving Manchester City the lead

City right-back Kyle Walker even mocked his rivals, writing in a tweet that he later deleted: “So basically they thought they were going to go 7 points ahead….,” with the Etihad win serving to breathe new life into the champions’ faltering title defence as they went on to win 14 straight league games after their St James’ loss, while at the same time seeming to unnerve their rivals.

And to show just how key that meeting was in determining the outcome of the 2018-19 title race, Klopp was still referencing Stones’s goal-line clearance even three years later.

“You can say a point, but for me, it was 11mm,” said the Liverpool boss when asked last December what had decided that season’s Premier League.

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Highlights from Manchester City’s win over Liverpool in the Premier League.

After dropping points to Leicester, Liverpool were also then held at West Ham United at the start of February, before back-to-back goalless away draws with arch-rivals Manchester United and Everton – who they also face in this season’s run-in – left the outcome of the title back in City’s own hands.

A seemingly insurmountable seven-point advantage at the turn of the year had, just two months later, turned into a one-point lead for City with nine games left to play as too many draws ultimately hurt the Reds’ challenge.

Interestingly, Liverpool drew seven times that season compared to City’s two, while this time around the Reds have been held on six occasions – two more than the champions have.

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Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Graeme Souness, and Joleon Lescott all give their views on whether Liverpool are still Premier League title favourites after their 2-1 defeat at Manchester City in the Premier League.

However, Klopp’s side have not drawn since adding to their attacking options with the £37m acquisition of Luis Diaz at the end of January, winning every league game since, in what could yet prove to be the major difference to them getting over the line come May.

Three years ago both teams were perfect down the final stretch, winning their last nine league games.

Premier League table on March 10, 2019

Pld GD PTS
Man City 30 +58 74
Liverpool 30 +51 73

Premier League table on April 2, 2022

Pld GD PTS
Man City 30 +52 73
Liverpool 30 +57 72

In fact, the current league table is virtually a replica of how it looked at the corresponding stage in 2018-19 as the two rivals now prepare for their final eight-match stretch – although Sunday’s showdown means both cannot go on a winning run from now until the end of the campaign.

Final 2018-19 Premier League table

Pld GD PTS
Man City 38 +72 98
Liverpool 38 +67 97

And just like three years ago, you also get the feeling the winner on Sunday will again take all the spoils come the season finale on May 22.


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