And so the game billed as the EPL title decider decided nothing in the end. The two sides that nobody has been able to get a cigarette paper between over the last three or four seasons, remain locked together, just a point apart going into the final seven games.
By Dave Bowler
As the odds at gclub24hr will doubtless reflect, in terms of pure numbers, the 2-2 draw is a better outcome for City than Liverpool, for the destiny of the league title now remains firmly in their hands.
If they reel off four straight home wins against Brighton, Watford, Newcastle and Aston Villa, and back that up with victories on the road at Wolves, Leeds and West Ham, the title is retained. Not only that, but with Manchester United, Everton, Spurs and Wolves to face at Anfield along with trips to Newcastle, Villa and Southampton, Liverpool’s hopes of creating a magnificent seven wins through to season’s end look marginally tougher. Not that anybody really expects either side to slip up in the home straight now.
In spite of that, psychologically it’s Liverpool who might just have the edge after today’s events because City unquestionably missed a chance to land the knockout blow at the Etihad. Home advantage, twice in front, the better side over the 90 minutes, gifted a golden opportunity to win it through Mahrez with virtually the last kick of the game, and still they couldn’t put Liverpool through the ropes and out of the ring. Had they won the game, as they could, perhaps should have, a four point gap would have given them margin for error. Now is there none.
For Liverpool, at half-time, 2-1 down, their passing all over the place, defensively panicked, the title was slipping away from them. But again, they weren’t completely out of it as they might have been and they made City pay for their profligacy just two minutes into the second half with Mane’s equaliser.
That’s what great sides do, they find a way to get through days when they’re misfiring and that’s what Liverpool did at the Etihad – they survived to fight another day. In terms of morale, that will be a huge boost. I can certainly see Klopp’s side reeling off seven straight wins from now to season’s end, not least because the pressure is off them a little bit now.
The title now is City’s to lose, for it sits in their hands. That is an excruciating pressure to play under for seven games, just as front running in any sporting is incredibly difficult. But if Liverpool are a great side, then so too are Manchester City and in Kevin de Bruyne they have an artist currently playing at the absolute peak of his powers.
This run in is perhaps their greatest test so far, not just of their ability but of their character. It’s one you would expect them to pass, but football being the absurd game that it is, it might just be that on the final day of the season, Steven Gerrard finally wins the title for Liverpool – as manager of Aston Villa, by nicking a draw at the Etihad.
Of course, these two sides reconvene to do it all again next Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup semi-final. Liverpool must have the edge going into that one courtesy of the differing Champions League demands the two face on Wednesday night, for while City walk a tightrope at Atletico Madrid, Liverpool host Benfica with one foot already in the next round. That could well prove decisive, but who could genuinely make a case for these inseparable sides taking that game all the way to penalties?