Padraig Whelan·1 April 2023
Padraig Whelan·1 April 2023
Manchester City fought back from an early deficit to put Liverpool to the sword in devastating fashion on Saturday afternoon.
This is what we made of it.
Not that anyone doubted they would, but Manchester City mean business after returning to action after the international break.
There were some doubts coming into this. Everyone knows that Liverpool can click on their day and hurt anyone (as Manchester United found out to their chastening cost last month), while they were also without top scorer Erling Haaland and Phil Foden.
They then went a goal down early after a big defensive lapse caught playing a high line but for the first time since losing to Leicester over two years ago, Liverpool went on to lose in the league after taking the lead.
It was a deserved defeat for the Reds and a well-earned one from the reigning champions who cut them open repeatedly and although they may point to some fleeting first half moments that could have changed things, after the break they were second best in every department.
And that was largely down to the work of two City stars in particular …
It is hard to think of a better performance in City blue than this one from Grealish.
He has really found his feet in Manchester in his second season and he earned every bit of his Man of the Match award.
Two moments in quick succession in the first half summed up not only how important he was in the win but how he deserves immense credit for doing the dirty work too – something that hasn’t always been the case.
When Mo Salah raced clear and looked set to tee up Diogo Jota to make it 2-0, it was Grealish who raced back and made the last-ditch block which prevented that and from the same counter-attack he started, was in the perfect position in the opposition area to tee up Julián Álvarez for the equaliser.
In the second half, he got the goal his display deserved after some classy link-up play on the left ended with him sweeping beyond Alisson to cap off a memorable afternoon.
“I love it! I love football, I love playing and when it is going like this, there’s nothing better!” he beamed when speaking to BT Sport afterwards.
Long may it continue. He’s a joy to watch in this form.
It isn’t bad when you can replace your superstar top scorer with a recently crowned World Cup winner.
But that is the abundance of riches Pep Guardiola has at his disposal at the Etihad as he compensated for the loss of Haaland with a groin injury by giving Álvarez a chance to impress.
And oh, did he grasp it.
He was in the perfect place for a Haaland-esque close range finish to equalise, produced a sublime switch of play with his cross-field pre-assist for Riyad Mahrez for the go-ahead goal and was at it again for the third as his movement in the box and shot led to İlkay Gündoğan putting the game beyond doubt.
The Argentine has so many strengths to his bow and many were on show against a Liverpool defence who struggled to deal with him.
In just 16 starts this season, he has managed 17 goals and assists and has also found the net five times against top six opposition. Even with limited playing time, he keeps making the most of it.