Liverpool’s 3-1 win on Saturday means Klopp has now won 11 of his 25 encounters with Guardiola, with five draws, making him by far the most successful coach against the Catalans. City failed to beat Liverpool in three meetings last season. It’s by no means definitive proof, but for those looking for it, it’s probably just the beginning of the sensation of a pendulum swimming the way to Liverpool.
Perhaps the main function of a community shield these days is to display major deals. With Darwin Nunez starting on the bench, all eyes were, as they might have been anyway, on Erling Haaland, who was brought in from Borussia Dortmund at a cost of $63 million. It was Nunez, and Julian Alvarez, who signed Citi’s $18 million contract from River Plate, who made the biggest impact.
Haaland’s quality isn’t really in dispute, but he’s not necessarily a clear fit for the City. That may be why he signed, to offer a different option and add a rough edge to the intricate patterns of Guardiola’s ball. But this was, at best, a mixed start. Haaland is not a striker to drop deep and link as he did, for example, Gabriel Jesus or Sergio Aguero at the end. Instead, he stays high on the pitch and that means against the press like Liverpool he can become isolated. In the entire match, he only managed 15 touches, the most recent of which was an effort that hit the crossbar from six yards out with goal at his mercy.
Time and time again, Haaland ran behind the City defense only to not play the ball. At the time this link may come, and it may make City better, and it may give him the success in the European competition that he craves, but it is not yet achieved. Although City were impressive in pre-season, and even more impressive than Liverpool, whose form was very disparate, the proof of this game is that developing that relationship will take time.
The first touchdown in English football lasted nine minutes and 40 seconds and was, frankly, a bit frustrating, turning inside the Liverpool half and a lunge forward that did nothing. His first intervention came after 34 minutes, when Riyad Mahrez hit the ball from the left side and beat Andrew Robertson and stabbed the goal. There was evidence of exactly what he is capable of – a physique that City lacks – but after a minute he should have done better rather than poorly on a cross from the left, stabbing a ball with his left foot when he should probably do gold with his right.
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By then, however, City were down 1-0 as Trent Alexander-Arnold swept Mohamed Salah’s reduction with a flick off Nathan Ake’s header and inside the post. It was a potentially well-deserved advance given that the press, as in the FA Cup semi-finals last season, caused City a lot of discomfort.
Liverpool’s summer signing, Nunez, was tipped off the bench, coming in just an hour before. His first entry was almost instant, but, like Haaland, the impression was foolish as he unnecessarily drifted offside and then took a heavy touch that would have missed the opportunity anyway. A second chance rose in the face of Man City goalkeeper Ederson. The game was more of a stretch by then, so the comparison may not have been entirely fair, but Nunez looked a lot more serious than Haaland.
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His impact was decisive, as a header hit the back post by Robin Dias on his hand to lift a penalty kick in the 81st minute, from which Salah managed to win in the end. Alvarez, City’s “other” new player, leveled the score 20 minutes before the end, and forced the ball over the goal line after Adrian Phil Foden twice blocked, to start in place of the injured Alisson.
But in truth, City were never at their best and Liverpool finished winning in injury time, with Nunez capping an impressive debut with a header from close range after Robertson’s precise cross from Salah from the right flanked. It looks like it’s another Premier League season as these two clubs vie for supremacy, new signings come under intense scrutiny every step of the way, and the first statement of the season belongs to Nunez and the Reds.
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