Another home win escapes Man City as they settle for draw vs. Liverpool
It was Groundhog Day for Manchester City as yet another home win escaped them, after having clear chances to secure the win. On this occasion, however, it could be argued that the number of misses at the other end meant the 1-1 draw with Liverpool might not have been so unwelcome by the end, despite everything that had gone before.
The point maintains third place and, despite Chelsea and Tottenham both winning, City will emerge from this cracking match with plenty of plaudits: bouncing back from the midweek defeat at Monaco, they showed guile, guts and perseverance against a Liverpool side carving a reputation as being a decent big-occasion side.
Yet more profligacy in front of goal. This has been the central theme of City's entire season. Here once again the main culprit was Sergio Aguero. Despite scoring a well-deserved equaliser, the stocky Argentinean did his chances of being Pep Guardiola's first-choice striker next season little good with subsequent misses.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Bold lineup and bold changes once the game was underway from Pep Guardiola, flagging the tiring Yaya Toure to move Fernandinho central and Raheem Sterling in behind Aguero in the middle. His tinkering so nearly paid off, but left the defence on tenterhooks. Not sure it warranted him being the proudest man in town, but he served up a treat.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Willy Caballero, 8 -- With no shots on target at either end in the first 35 minutes, Caballero suddenly shot into eye-watering action, with a one-handed save from Philippe Coutinho's rasping shot, then a magnificent stop from Adam Lallana. Also got a vital foot on Roberto Firminio's shot when left exposed once again.
DF Fernandinho, 8 -- Magnificently solid at right-back, then equally determined once moved to Toure's central midfield berth. Was so surprised by Sterling's miss that he did the same.
DF Gael Clichy, 5 -- Started with a dodgy ball across the front of his central defenders. Was at fault for the penalty twice over, losing Firminio as the ball came through, then doubling back to foul him in the area. Did not let his head drop, however, and joined the onslaught to find an equaliser.
DF Nicolas Otamendi, 8 -- Hands full in a match in which his area of the pitch was given scant support from City's midfield. Had his fair share of scary moments but put in plenty of good, clean tackles.
DF John Stones, 9 -- Started by selling Otamendi short with a back pass, which nearly ended disastrously and seemed uncomfortable with Sadio Mane's speed, but grew into his task brilliantly and stuck at it right to the end, coming forward more and more to aid the attack. Also produced a game-saving tackle on Mane.
MF Yaya Toure, 6 -- Added some solidity to the midfield after Monaco, but tired alarmingly and was increasingly being given an embrrassing run-around by Liverpool's nippy attackers when hauled off after 65 minutes.
MF David Silva, 9 -- After a sub-par game in midweek, Silva was right back to his best here, spraying short clever passes, longer diagonals and deft balls through the eye of a needle with both right and left feet. Shot just over in the first half and produced one sumptuous flick for Sterling to run on to.
MF Kevin de Bruyne, 6 -- Another frustrating afternoon for a player who has gone completely off the boil. Every pass seemed to be going awry, every attempt to find space denied, but he finally produced one magnificent ball in from the right, which Aguero put away.
MF Raheem Sterling, 8 -- Little dinks and the drop of a shoulder here, jinking slaloms and direct running there, Sterling appeared well fired up against his old teammates. Appeared to be impeded by James Milner when missing from a yard out. Ended pushed forward in a central role.
MF Leroy Sane, 7 -- City's danger man was given due respect by the Liverpool defence and Nathaniel Clyne played him as well as anyone has managed in recent weeks. By the end, was himself failing to track Clyne as the Liverpool man advanced, and was swapped for Fernando after 82 minutes.
FW Sergio Aguero, 7 -- Prepared to do plenty of work, but still missing too many chances. So often the player to make the difference for City, especially against Liverpool, here he was merely the player who grabbed a neat equaliser but also the man who missed most.
DF Bacary Sagna, 5 -- Came on for the visibly shrinking Toure after 65 minutes. Is possibly the least appropriate player in the squad to serve Guardiola at full-back. Slow, error-strewn performance, while always looking to turn back towards his own goal.
MF Fernando, NR -- Came on for Sane after 82 minutes and immediately found himself the unlikely target of Silva's free kick to the near post. Stood steady in a whirlwind midfield that was losing all shape and composure by that time.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.