In pictures: Man City v Liverpool
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Gary Neville claims that Manchester City spurned the opportunity to wrap up the league on Sunday afternoon against Liverpool. The two sides played out a thrilling contest, although shared spoils leaves the Premier League title race finely balanced going into the final seven games of the campaign.
City got off to a dream start at the Etihad when Kevin De Bruyne’s deflected strike cannoned in off the far post, but Diogo Jota finished off a flowing Liverpool move just eight minutes later. Gabriel Jesus then beat the offside trap shortly before half time to restore City’s advantage.
Many felt as though the narrow lead did not reflect the home side’s authoritative first-half display, and they were punished seconds after the restart when Sadio Mane curled his finish around Ederson. While a point is by no means a disaster for City, Neville was quick to point out that they had missed a golden opportunity.
“Before the game, I thought a point would be better for City, but at half-time, the game could have been out of sight,” the Manchester United hero told The Gary Neville Podcast, “It was almost as if at half-time Jurgen Klopp had to say, ‘come on, we’ve built this team for three or four years and yet you’ve shown no authority, you’ve frozen, you’ve defended poorly’.
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“I have to say, Liverpool responded brilliantly [in the second half], and at the end of the game, considering where they were at half-time [it was a better point for Liverpool]. But City could have won the title today had they won the game; I don’t think Liverpool could have because they have harder remaining games.
“But things move on, it wouldn’t surprise me if both teams won every game until the end of the season and Liverpool are sat thinking ‘I wish we played better in the first half.’ But we don’t know, there is still a long way to go.”
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Indeed, Riyad Mahrez could have had a major say in the title race when he was sent racing through on goal in the game’s dying embers. A poor first touch tempted him into launching an audacious chip, however, which cleared the crossbar by some distance.
Despite tinges of disappointment, a single point keeps the contest in City’s hands with just seven matches left to play. Liverpool may also wince at their comparatively tough run of fixtures, in which they can ill afford to drop points between now and the end of May.
With a healthy 3-1 lead, the Reds’ Champions League quarter-final second leg against Benfica may only be a formality before fiery clashes with Man Utd and Everton, not to mention an FA Cup meeting with City in less than one week’s time. They may also have to contend with two matches against Bayern Munich if the German giants overturn a one-goal deficit against Villarreal.
City’s toughest Premier League test is an away trip to West Ham in the penultimate match of the season, but Pep Guardiola refused to get carried away after the final whistle on Sunday. “I have the feeling that we missed an opportunity to get three points, but as I told you just before the game, it didn’t matter what happened, win, lose or draw, this is not over,” he told Sky Sports, “I would say the same with a defeat or a victory.”
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