‘Liverpool v Man City a shock bore draw but still hints at thrilling title race’

Pep Guardiola promised before the game that he does not do boring, does not even know how.

And it is hard to believe that the two most gung-ho and cavalier teams in the Premier League would ever set out to produce a stalemate.

But after Riyad Mahrez blazed Manchester City’s late penalty over the crossbar, there was simply nothing between the reigning champions and most likely challengers Liverpool .

They cancelled each other out. Neither team able to find a way through as what was billed as a thrilling title shoot-out turned into a bore draw.

Incredibly, they managed just three shots in the first half — the joint lowest in the Premier League this season, along with Newcastle vs Arsenal and Huddersfield vs Cardiff.

However, if Liverpool-City did not set the pulses racing, then it was a reflection of just how well these heavyweights are matched this season.

They shared 18 goals in four meetings between the clubs in the Premier League and Champions League last season as Liverpool had the upper hand with three wins. But it was City who ran away with the title, they were a staggering 25 points ahead of Liverpool and yet you feel this season’s race will be a lot closer.

Make no mistake, the visitors will probably be happier with the point even if they will rue that glorious chance to take all three.

But Liverpool should not be disheartened. They have clearly got the measure of City and, if they can remain consistent, then they will push them all of the way.

Maybe we should sacrifice one game in a season if the title race is going to be more exciting than last season’s one-horse race, no matter how good City were.

Etihad big cheese Guardiola knows now that his reigning champions will not have it their own way, they are there to be shot at which is why it is so much harder to defend a title than win it.

The problem was that the best players on the pitch were defenders.

City centre-halves John Stones and Aymeric Laporte were magnificent and Liverpool’s Joe Gomez superb at nullifying the threat of Raheem Sterling.

Reds team-mate Virgil van Dijk did not put a foot wrong either until his rash challenge upended Leroy Sane to concede that 86th minute penalty.

But that was the only heart in mouth moment for Liverpool’s defence — which is telling as City are normally so dangerous, even away from home.

It is now four games without a win across all competitions for Klopp’s men but it does not feel there is any cause for alarm, especially after an intense and exhausting run of fixtures.

Guardiola has been through the same, of course, and maybe even his City slickers did not have anything left in the tank to see off Liverpool.

Right from the start the game was more niggly and aggressive than free-flowing entertainment; Benjamin Mendy and Fernandinho putting the boot in and James Milner hobbling off with a hamstring problem that disrupted the hosts’ midfield. Naby Keita came on, but they lost some rhythm.

Dejan Lovren – installed in central defence to allow Gomez to play right-back in place of birthday boy Trent Alexander-Arnold – was lucky to survive penalty appeals after appearing to push Sergio Aguero over in the box.

City started the second half better, Liverpool came back into it and yet their often lethal front three were once again below par. Mo Salah was easily the pick of the bunch but his shooting was wayward.

Salah managed their first effort on target after 62 minutes but it was straight at keeper Ederson while, at the other end, Alisson saved brilliantly from Mahrez.

When Guardiola took off Sergio Aguero and brought on Gabriel Jesus, he could not have imagined that decision would be so important.

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Van Dijk’s challenge brought down Sane and, with Aguero off the pitch, Guardiola sent instructions for £60million summer buy Mahrez to take it.

The former Leicester star had had a good game and maybe that was why Guardiola chose him over Jesus, who wanted the ball.

But Mahrez blazed miles over, Incredibly, it was his fifth miss from his last eight penalties.

It was a moment to regret for City and rare that Guardiola makes a mistake but a point each seemed just about fair.

Who will win the title this season?


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