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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
David Hytner at Anfield

Doku involved at both ends as Liverpool and Manchester City share spoils

Jérémy Doku crashes into Alexis Mac Allister in the dying seconds at Anfield.
Jérémy Doku crashes into Alexis Mac Allister in the dying seconds at Anfield. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Everybody has felt it, the notion that Jürgen Klopp’s end-of-season departure will turbocharge Liverpool to the Premier League title, the team and fans riding a wave of emotion to glory.

Since the manager dropped the bombshell at the end of ­January, Liver­pool have barely put a foot wrong, apart from in defeat at ­Arsenal. Here against Manchester City, they pushed as if their lives depended on it.

Alexis Mac Allister lit the touchpaper at the start of the second half, scoring from the penalty spot to cancel out John Stones’s opener for City midway through a first half that the defending champions had shaded – particularly in the early running.

It was a distillation of what Klopp has created at Liverpool, high-energy football, thrilling to watch and it was possible to feel that a winner would somehow be willed in. Liverpool have made decisive late goals a happy habit this season and they had the chances to score again, especially through Luis Díaz. City were rattled.

It was building towards something, wasn’t it? And yet it did not come. ­Liverpool had stoppage-time appeals for a penalty. Mohamed Salah, fit enough only to play as a substitute, felt contact from Nathan Aké but the big shout came when another ­substitute, Jérémy Doku, raised a boot dangerously, missing the ball and catching Mac Allister. Anfield held its breath. Surely the officials would act? They did not, leaving a wave of discussion points and mixed feelings.

City had looked to have ­weathered the Liverpool storm and they almost nicked the lead, the frame of Caoimhín Kelleher’s goal twice denying them. Phil Foden did not know an awful lot about the moment when Kelleher punched an Aké cross into him, the ball flying into the crossbar.

But Doku thought he had cracked it on 89 minutes when he cut inside and shaped a low shot for the far corner. It came back off the inside of the post.

When it was all over the first reaction was to marvel at the entertainment value, how these heavyweights had slugged to a standstill. Arsenal would have enjoyed the result – they stay top of the table – and, in the final ­analysis, City ­probably did, too. ­Liverpool ­continue to believe.

It had certainly been worth ­reflecting on Liverpool’s casualty list at kick-off time; it numbered 10 after Ibrahima Konaté was ruled out, with Klopp deeming Andy Robertson as well as Salah to be ready only for the bench. City missed one player and one player alone – Jack Grealish.

City might have scored before they did, some of their pass-and-move stuff easy on the eye, although when the breakthrough came, it needed a double-take. How was Stones so open just a few yards from goal to tap home from Kevin De Bruyne’s whipped low corner? It was partly to do with Aké standing in the way of Mac Allister and also Darwin Núñez’s failure to track Stones. What a time it was for Stones to score his first of the season.

Liverpool had their moments ­during the first half, none bigger than Dominik Szoboszlai’s free header on 32 minutes when he ghosted on to Harvey Elliott’s floated cross. ­Szoboszlai had to generate the power on the ball and his sights were awry.

Conor Bradley got into dangerous attacking spaces from right-back and Díaz, who had the ball in the net in the 19th minute only for Núñez to be flagged offside, dragged wide from the edge of the area.

City’s fast start had seen Virgil van Dijk make an important challenge on Foden, Julián Álvarez and De Bruyne work Kelleher and, in between times, De Bruyne miss the final action when in up the left. It was neither a shot nor a cross from him. Kyle Walker overhit a cross for De Bruyne in first-half stoppage time and the sense was that City had the greater control. Stones oozed composure on the ball, stepping from central defence into midfield, setting the tone.

Liverpool needed a break and they got it at the beginning of the second half; from all things, a misplaced City pass. Aké was the culprit, undercooking his attempt to go back to Ederson and seeing Núñez steal in. He toed it away from the goalkeeper and was promptly cleaned out by him. It was the most obvious ­penalty of the season, the only wonder being that Ederson stayed on to face it because he looked to have slipped and hyperextended his lower leg in the act of clattering Núñez.

Ederson was booked and received lengthy treatment, meaning Mac Allister had to wait and wait. His penalty, though, bristled with assurance. Liverpool had liftoff. The home crowd sensed it was their moment.

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Guardiola was forced to ­withdraw Ederson and Foden worked ­Kelleher at close quarters but ­Liverpool could feel the adrenaline running through them, especially when Klopp introduced Robertson and Salah. Díaz had taken a heavy touch when well placed just before the changes. Now he streaked clear on to a Salah pass only to fluff the one-on-one ­finish against Ederson’s replacement, ­Stefan Ortega – a gilt-edged miss.

Liverpool created more, ­including another chance for Díaz when Núñez crossed. Again, his touch was poor, allowing Walker to make the saving challenge. Díaz’s energy was irrepres­sible; his end product less so. Salah and Mac Allister had sights of goal while Ortega blocked from Núñez. City would push again, the ­woodwork their enemy before the final penalty appeal drama. If Doku had been unlucky with his shot, he ended up as a relieved man.

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