The last day of 2016 finished with Liverpool cementing their place in second in the league, after a 1-0 win over Manchester City thanks to Georginio Wijnaldum’s second goal for Liverpool in the eighth minute of the game.
The clash of these teams was dubbed the clash of the festive period and was the game ‘everyone’ was waiting for. Liverpool made one change to the game with Emre Can coming in to replace Divock Origi, while City made changes to their team for the trip to Anfield, the most noticeable one being Sergio Aguero up top.
City for their part came to Anfield with an awful track record, maybe with this in mind Pep Guardiola brought back his two most experienced full backs in Zabaleta and Kolorov. Yaya Toure also kept hisplace in midfield.
Both managers obviously had thought out their game plan for the clash and as both knew each other well from their time in Germany, this meeting was expected to be a tactical affair but also a high scoring affair also.
In the end the former was true with the latter failing to materialise. This game was decided by a single goal that arrived also early as the 8th minute.
After Ragnar Klavan gave away a free kick for a late challenege outside the box City had set up somewhat casually to take the free kick. Yaya Toure stood over the ball and opted to simply clip it out wide to the wing. The only problem was that the pass was very casual indeed and too high forcing him to try to play it back on the volley straight away.
His attempt was easily cut out and Liverpool had set the trap, they were quick to bolt out and Firmino got the ball out wide to Adam Lallana as the City players tried to stream back.
Lallana was away able to forge forward without a challenege to the edge of the box where he picked out the deep run from Winjaldum with a pin point cross that Winjaldum met in the middle of the box with a bullet header that flew past the diving Bravo into the top right corner of the goal.
First blood had been drawn and it was a fast, expansive and clinical affair that was to decide this game.
Winjaldum made a clever run to be in the box at just the right time with the right momentum to allow him the chance to score all too easily following a devastating counter attack which had left Yaya and Co flapping behind them.
City had seemed to start the game well enough in the opening minutes with possession but from the moment they conceded the goal it was the home team that took over and dominated for the rest of the first half to the extent that the second goal which would have given a good cushion surprisingly never materialised.
City looked slow and laboured on the ball. Liverpool were obviously willing to allow them to have the ball deep in their own half and as the option not to go with a striker showed Liverpool chose to lie back somehwhat an did not press the ball until they started to come into the midfield.
This pattern of play would be repeated for the whole game. It forced City to toss the ball around at the back or either go long and when they did go long it was easily mopped up by Klavan and Co.
Pep would surely make changes at half time to his tactics that seen Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne along with David Silva become bystanders in a game of this magnitude.
Liverpool could easily have been 2 goals up at half time had their final ball and decision been a little bit cooler as we seen when James Milner clipped a delightful ball over the top of a high City defence that Roberto Firmino just failed to bring down as he was through 1 on 1 with the goalie.
An exceptional chance that the home faithful hoped would not be rued come the end of this game.
Although Simon Mignolet went virtually untroubled again in his goal and will be extremely happy with another clean sheet since his being restored to the first team. His third clean sheet in the last four league games having conceded just the one goal in that period.
They dominated the half in terms of possession and pushed themselves higher up the pitch.
City still tried to get the ball out wide as they did in the first half but to no avail with Sterling as Milner kept him marshalled all day with the expertise of an experienced full back.
De Bruyne was stying out wide also but failing to track back to help cover the runs of Nathaniel Clyne and also such was finding himself out of touch with the game touch tally.
David Silva did look to get more of the ball in his favourite position just between the lines and was able to turn on one occasion and get the ball onto that cultured left foot of his to have a shot which was wide of the goals.
It looked to me like he was starting to find his space and range and was to be taken as a warning to Liverpool.
A warning they seen and heeded as he would not be allowed to do much more for the rest of this game.
City were again allowed to have the ball deep but with the home team now one goal to the the good Liverpool were even more attuned to sitting, waiting and being able to pick their times and chances to spring forward and counter.
As the game progressed into the latter stages the perceived final flourish and push from Man City never did materialise mainly as a result of resolute defending from a Liverpool side that knew exactly what it was doing all day long and all so all loss a result of Man City being unable to get their big players into the game in the areas they needed.
Klavan and Milner were exceptional all day long in dealing with Sterling and Sergio Aguero who had an extremely quiet and frustrating game as he never touched the ball once in his opponents box so well was he marshalled too.
Yaya Toure was somewhat of a gamble in a midfield that needed to be mobile and quick to get the ball forward to help City today. Time and time again Liverpool waited their time to close down Yaya when he received the ball and force errors at the right times.
Pep had the reputation of being the bigger manager tactics wise but his teams display showed how he was out thought at every turn to the extent that by the end of the game he was left looking bewildered on the sideline.
Pep got his tactics wrong on the day and was left with a team that had been outplayed and outsmarted at every turn and with no visible plan B to turn to either.
His full backs that he drafted in were left looking both slow and indecisive and Yaya was unable to control the midfield with the ball and even worse was nowhere when they didn’t have the ball.
A big win for manager Jürgen Klopp and his team sets off a very impressive year at home and takes us into at new year still lying second in the table and still six points behind pace setters Chelsea right now but with alot to look forward to.
Written by @StephenKing75