In a clash where space, time and quality were the scarcest of resources, Bernardo Silva had the monopoly. What is supposed to be the toughest test Manchester City face in any season looked to be a breeze for the veteran Portuguese midfielder, who has responded to the absence of Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne by taking his game to ever greater heights.
Perhaps it was the fairly gloomy displays of so many around him that made Silva shine so bright. Maybe the overwrought build up, the early start after an international break or even just the comparative excellence of past meetings between Liverpool and Manchester City were at fault, but whatever the explanation, this 1-1 draw felt a little unworthy of so many moments of brilliance from one man. Take Silva out of this game and you would not have believed England's top two were facing off.
Off or on the ball, Silva was exerting his will on this contest. A dangerous pass on the edge of the City box and Silva stole in, a pirouette turning the Liverpool counterpress into a three on three attack for his side, one where the hosts were only a better Jeremy Doku pass away from their second goal.
He might not have the look of a classic do it all midfielder, but looks can be deceiving, because that is exactly what he is. He was strong enough in the tackle to dispossess Liverpool, ingenious enough to set his teammates up. His stat line included five tackles, two chances created, and a personal highlight reel of flicks and feints.
For all the promise that Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai will offer Liverpool in the years to come, neither is quite yet ready to dictate a game from the shadows as Silva did today across the pitch from them. His was a performance six years and change in the making. He has long since memorized where every team mate will be. He has probably faced Liverpool often enough that he knows where the space is to probe their weak points.
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Certainly, he knew what he needed to do to get City at the soft red underbelly of Liverpool. At the outset in particular, the invigorating Jeremy Doku blew by Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold repeatedly, as Silva fed him the ball. Alexander-Arnold, the man who would have the last laugh in this contest scoring a late equalizer, struggled early before growing into the game defensively, ending the match with 10 ball recoveries and a man of the match award. Even so, he was tested on every occasion all while manmarking from the City midfielder quelled him as an attacking force... at least for 80 minutes. The obvious answer would be to send help to the trenches but all that would accomplish is to allow the ball to be circulated to Silva in a spot even closer to goal.
Given the control Silva had exerted on the Liverpool right, it was perhaps no wonder that the game's opening goal came from that area. Alisson's swiftly taken goal kick skewed awkwardly into the path of Nathan Ake, who delivered his best impersonation of the No. 20 as he glided past two defenders, slipping a through ball into the path of Erling Haaland. Two touches and a low drive, his 50th Premier League goal, in keeping with so many of those that had preceded it over 47 games.
City were in the ascendancy, but the margins were small, and might so easily have been Liverpool breaking through first with that Alisson clearance seeking out Mohamed Salah, who would have been bearing down on goal if only the pass was right. That rather told the story of a first half where the visitors allowed prime openings to pass them by. In the grand scheme of things it is unquestionably good news for Klopp that Darwin Nunez keeps getting into such dangerous positions, but in a match as tight as this, it would help to have a more refined product. Where it took Haaland only three touches to turn his one early opening into a goal, four from Nunez in the 17th minute weren't quite enough to manufacture a shooting position for the Uruguayan despite spending time in prime central locations in City's penalty box.
City did not continue in the same vein that Haaland had set for them in the first. Throughout the contest they had not been particularly creative. The two occasions where they got the ball in the net coming from errors by Alisson, who was fortunate that Manuel Akanji was adjudged to have pushed him when he let a cross through his gloves for Ruben Dias to turn home.
The game was there for them to kill off but Haaland's near post flick was blocked by a combination of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. Liverpool flew forward, a Luis Diaz cross arriving at the feet of Alexander-Arnold via Salah. His low drive through the crowd had Ederson beaten.
A contest that in totality neither side particularly merited three points from, one wonders how much this occasion would have been enlivened if a few hours' extra rest had been afforded to those players who had been flung far and wide across the globe during the international break. The eight extra minutes inflicted on the Etihad Stadium nearly had a winner, Haaland flicking a Julian Alvarez corner just wide, but shared spoils seemed about right. If only there had been a few more Silvas on the pitch today.