Man City and Liverpool’s Christmas pirate! Winners and losers as Haaland & De Bruyne punish Nunez’s depravity
Manchester City knocked defending champions Liverpool out of the Carabao Cup but James Milner’s injury will be of greater concern to Jurgen Klopp.
Never mind the World Cup, the Carabao Cup is where it’s really at.
After a break of 40 days, domestic football returned with a bang at the Etihad Stadium, as Manchester City edged out Liverpool, their great rivals, 3-2 to secure a spot in the quarter-finals.
Nathan Ake’s header tipped a thrilling contest the way of Pep Guardiola’s men, on a night when Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne all shone.
Haaland fired City into an early lead with his 24th goal of the season, only for Fabio Carvalho to draw Liverpool level.
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Riyad Mahrez restored the home side’s advantage early in the second half, but Salah equalised within a minute for 2-2.
City, though, would have the final say, De Bruyne picking out Ake to secure a rousing win for the Premier League champions, although the Reds were left to rue a trio of missed chances from Darwin Nunez, as their defence of the trophy came to an end.
It’s terrible when you come back rusty after a break, isn’t it?
It didn’t take long for City’s main man to pick up where he left off before the World Cup. Less than 10 minutes as Haaland collected his 24th goal of a remarkable campaign in familiarly clinical fashion to open the scoring.
You’ve seen this goal before, I’m sure. A bit of space for De Bruyne out wide and a dangerous delivery, a bit of front-post movement from Haaland and a devastatingly effective finish, as the visiting defenders stand and wonder how it all happened.
If the hope from City’s rivals was that the mid-season pause might check some of their No.9’s momentum, then it looks like it was misplaced. Haaland’s first chance here arrived inside 20 seconds, and though he skewed that one wildly off target, it was no surprise to see him on the scoresheet soon after.
It was more surprising when Nat Phillips, a first-half substitute for Liverpool, stopped his advances with a supremely-timed tackle before half-time, but then you can’t score every chance.
It’s just that Haaland makes you feel as though he might…
Club football is back, and so are Liverpool’s injury woes.
Less than 45 minutes into the Reds’ return to action, Jurgen Klopp was grinding his teeth and looking to the heavens. Down was James Milner, captain for the night and his makeshift right-back. Not another one, surely?
Yes, another one. Liverpool, already without Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Arthur Melo and Curtis Jones, had lost Roberto Firmino to a calf issue suffered in training on Tuesday too. Not that serious, said club sources. Serious enough at this time of year, pointed out Klopp.
This just looks a fragile squad, and a fragile squad is the last thing Liverpool need when they are already playing catch up after a poor start to the season. However talented their young players are, they need their senior men to stay fit.
Here, they lost the most senior of them all. Still, at least Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are back.