Honours even as Manchester City and Liverpool each miss big chances in frantic draw

Manchester City 1 Liverpool 1: Sergio Aguero's close-range finish cancelled out James Milner's penalty before both sides spurned a number of glorious chances late on

Miguel Delaney
Etihad Stadium
Sunday 19 March 2017 19:19
Aguero's second-half goal was enough to secure City a point
Aguero's second-half goal was enough to secure City a point

In another season, or maybe a different set of circumstances, this 1-1 draw at the Etihad would have had a huge bearing on the title race. As it was, it was a hugely entertaining match, but one that didn’t really change or tell us too much about either team.

Liverpool again got a respectable result against one of the top six, Manchester City showed resilience and probably shaded the game in term in terms of performance, and both still look good for a Champions League place. Yet, as even as it all ended, it was a very uneven game in terms of emotions.

There was an awful lot of anger, amid some gloriously furious football, and one moment of incredulity as Adam Lallana produced possibly the miss of the season - if not the decade.

Both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp had moments of aggravation with the officials, but it was James Milner who probably bore the brunt of the anger, as he was repeatedly booed by the home fans in an apparent response to comments he made about why he left and the ongoing acrimony about how his opposite number-seven Raheem Sterling left Anfield.

It was all too predictable that he would score a spot-kick, and just as predictable that the prolific Sergio Aguero would respond to that and his series of miss against Monaco in midweek with a key goal.

Milner gave his side the lead from the spot (Getty)

It was just a surprise that there weren’t more goals, and maybe more penalties.

Most of the first half seemed to be dominated by calls.

The first came on 24 minutes. Just after David Silva had wasted an opportunity at one end by going for the spectacular in trying to volley the ball into the roof of the net, Sadio Mane seemed to waste an opportunity to leave Nicolas Otamendi in his slipstream, as he went down under the challenge of the Argentine when a one-on-one presented itself.

Referee Michael Oliver waved away appeals, just as he did moments later when Georginio Wijnaldum went down as Yaya Toure went in rashly.

Toure was lucky not to concede a penalty in the first-half (Getty)

City had their own complaints 10 minutes later, as a supreme move between Kevin De Bruyne and Silva ended with the ball fizzing across the box but Milner appearing to impede - of course - Raheem Sterling. Perhaps the biggest question about that passage of play, however, was how Fernandinho still couldn’t score.

It looked all the more wasteful as Liverpool then began to generate momentum, to the point a goal seemed to be coming even before the penalty. The first half ended with Willy Cavallero’s goal under siege, as he pulled off a brilliant save from an Lallana volley, before John Stones probably did even better to get across and deny Joel Matip with a superb interception just as he seemed set to score.

There was no such spotless accuracy from Clichy when Firmino found himself in a similar position just minutes after the break, as the full-back clumsily bundled him, and Oliver finally pointed to the spot. Milner naturally wasn’t going to miss, especially given all the boos and commotion around him.

Sane was impressive for City on the wing (Getty)

Firmino then had the chance to put the game beyond City with a one-on-one 10 minutes later, but Cavallero did well to divert his effort.

It seemed a bit of a last straw for City, as it jolted them back into life, and they began to again play some of the luscious football they been offering in the first half. There was a sharpness about them again, particularly Aguero.

After a spell when the Argentine had repeatedly and ominously threatened, especially with one header that went wide, he finally produced. On 69 minutes, De Bruyne drove the ball sharply into the area, and Aguero met it with the perfect finish.

Aguero scored the equalising goal (Getty)

He should maybe have made it 2-1 on 75 minutes, as the ever-lively Leroy Sane brilliantly flicked the ball back to the Argentine, only for him to lose his footing in the box, before De Bruyne hit the post from the breaking ball.

Lallana, however, couldn’t even make it that far. It was as if the attacker was as bamboozled by the quality of Liverpool’s move as the City defence. Somehow, after Wijnaldum had deftly lifted the ball over the top for Firmino to help it on, Lallana somehow completely miskicked with the goal at his mercy.

The two sides both missed several late goal-scoring opportunities

It was still City who will probably rue the closing stages most, as Sterling was denied having outfoxed Mignolet in a one-on-one, and Aguero blazed over from just yards out.

No-one could quite get the better of the game, and it means that there is still no manager to have twice got the better of Guardiola in a single league season. Klopp had that opportunity but, like some of his players, squandered the opportunity.

It also means Guardiola still hasn’t been six times in a league season. That probably has a greater meaning for him than it does for the table, and should be something to be happy about, even if so many of the emotions of this match didn’t reflect it.

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