July 5, 2022, 12:23

Man City 5-0 Liverpool: Talking points including Sadio Mane’s controversial sending off

Man City 5-0 Liverpool: Talking points including Sadio Mane’s controversial sending off

From Sadio Mane’s red card to a super strike duo, Peter Smith takes a look at the key talking points from Manchester City’s big win over Liverpool…

Manchester City put five past Liverpool in Saturday’s standout Premier League clash – but Sadio Mane’s first-half sending off was a key factor.

A Sergio Aguero strike and doubles from Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus despatched the visitors, who had beaten Arsenal 4-0 last time out. But the Reds were on top until Mane’s controversial clash with City goalkeeper Ederson.

Here, we take a look at that moment – and the other talking points from a memorable Etihad encounter…

Should Mane have been sent off?

Whether Sadio Mane should have been sent off for a first-half collision with Ederson will be debated for days to come.

Rushing in to a 50-50, the Liverpool attacker attempted to flick the loose ball past the Manchester City goalkeeper but only succeeded in kicking Ederson in the jaw. With the Brazilian shot-stopper sprawled on the turf, and eventually stretchered off to have scans on a possible fracture, it was an ugly scene.

But was referee Jon Moss right to brandish a red card? Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville felt it was an accidental clash and that Mane was harshly treated for a genuine attempt to win the ball.

“It won’t look pretty in the replays but in real time I don’t think anybody in the stadium felt it wasn’t a genuine attempt to play the ball,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a red card. However the keeper ends up, the rewards are so big. His eyes are on the ball. Sorry Jon Moss, you’ve just ruined the game there.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp took a similar view. “He didn’t see him, it was an accident,” he said. “Mane’s foot was not that high and in my opinion it was not a red card. You want to go for the ball, you can not wait, then they crash into each other.”

Jamie Carragher, though, disagreed, and dismissed the “eyes on the ball” argument. “He’s still endangering an opponent,” explained the former Liverpool defender. “There’s nothing sinister about it but in the referee’s rule book it says about endangering an opponent. If you go flying at speed and your boot is high and you don’t get the ball and you smash into the goalkeeper’s face you’re putting yourself into a major problem.”

City’s super strike partnership

“I don’t count too much on statistics to make my decisions – but maybe for that decision I will make an exception and he will play,” joked Pep Guardiola in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports on Friday, when he was told that Aguero had scored in each of his last five home games against Liverpool.

Tempted by that fact or not, Guardiola – who had dropped Aguero for City’s last Premier League game against Bournemouth – fielded the Argentina international from the start alongside Jesus.

Aguero needed just one chance to justify that call, expertly latching on to a De Bruyne through ball, going around Simon Mignolet and slotting in to put City 1-0 up on 24 minutes.

It was Aguero’s 124th Premier League goal, which made him the top scoring non-European in Premier League history, ahead of Dwight Yorke. Another statistic. Another reminder of Aguero’s enduring ability and importance to this City team.

Crucially for City, the double threat of Aguero and Jesus looked to be forming a deadly partnership. The young Brazilian had doubled City’s advantage with a simple header just before the break after seeing a goal ruled out moments earlier, but the pair of South American strikers lit up the Etihad with their combination play for the home side’s third.

Jesus’ fast start

Gabriel Jesus has been directly involved in 14 goals in his 12 Premier League starts for Man City (10 goals, four assists).

Put through brilliantly by Fernandinho, Aguero – who had just seen another strike ruled out for offside – had only Mignolet to beat, but unselfishly passed for the better-placed Jesus to score a second. Both clinical goal-scorers in their own right, now City’s front pair are showing the link-up play needed to be a great duo.

“This is a big moment in this partnership,” said Neville after Jesus’ second. “The fact they’re willing to share, that there’s unselfishness there, it’s something all coaches will love to see. There’s great team spirit out of this, when you see someone world class willing to give it to someone else who is in a better position. Guardiola will love that.”

Brilliant De Bruyne

Kevin de Bruyne was the Premier League’s top creator in 2016/17, setting up 18 goals – a single-season record for City. So it was perhaps a surprise to see him without an assist to his name after the first three games of this campaign. He made up for that slow start on Saturday, brilliantly teeing up City’s two first-half strikes against Liverpool.

Deployed in a slightly deeper role this term, De Bruyne was perfectly placed to pick up a loose ball in midfield and thread an expertly-weighted, defence-splitting pass for Aguero to open the scoring. His pinpoint cross from the left was then converted by Jesus just before the interval to put City two clear, moments after a mirror move from the right was ruled out for offside.

The form of the Belgian looks likely to be integral to City’s ambitions this year.

City’s defensive concerns remain

This was just Manchester City’s seventh clean sheet in their past 24 Premier League home games. But that doesn’t mean they’ve found a solution to their defensive problems. Far from it.

Without the injured Vincent Kompany, City started with a back three of Danilo, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi. It started badly, when Stones – who didn’t get on the pitch for England over the international break – slashed the ball into the air with his first touch as he tried to clear downfield and regular wing-back Danilo didn’t always look comfortable in his more restricted role. But the real issue was to the left, where Otamendi was run ragged by Mo Salah in the first-half.

The Argentina centre-back had been badly exposed by the pace of Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin before the international break and Salah, charging into the channel, regularly got the better of him as Liverpool focused 56 per cent of their attacks down that side of the pitch in the opening 20 minutes.

Otamendi was booked within six minutes for a rash lunge at the tricky Egyptian, left trailing when Salah skipped past him midway through the half and then fluffed an attempt to play the winger offside on the half hour.

Unsurprisingly, Otamendi was switched to the other side of the pitch at half-time in a bid to protect him from more torment, before being replaced by Eliaquim Mangala with 20 minutes still to play.

Guardiola spent £120m on three new full-backs this summer, but central defence remains a problem position. “For a couple of years City have left themselves short at centre-back,” said Neville. “For all the money they’ve spent, they still look weak in that area.

“They’re trying to compensate for the fact they haven’t really got a centre-back pair when Kompany’s out. All of a sudden it leaves them looking well short. It’s too easy to get down the sides of them. They’re not a unit at all.”

Klopp’s record takes a hit

This isn’t what Liverpool were expecting. After their thumping thrashing of Arsenal last time out, there was real optimism in the Reds’ camp that they could lay down another marker against City. After all, Liverpool were unbeaten in away games against top six sides under Klopp – until Saturday.

The German’s overall record against those teams is now: P20 W9 D9 L2. That’s still remarkably impressive, though, and the envy of the other managers at the top end of the table. And Liverpool fans shouldn’t panic.

The visitors were undoubtedly the better team until Mane was sent off; Aguero’s opener was very much against the run of play. Perhaps there can be criticism that the loss of an attacker to a red card shouldn’t result in a capitulation – but against this hugely talented attacking force City have assembled, it is tough enough to keep them out with eleven men.

Klopp’s focus will now turn to the Champions League, but there is an opportunity to rebuild their Premier League momentum with fixtures against Burnley, Leicester and Newcastle, before they face the other Manchester side, United, at Anfield on October 14.

Sourse: skysports.com

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