Liverpool and Manchester City served up a Premier League classic at Anfield, as the defending champions twice battled back to draw 2-2 on an evening when momentum swung wildly between the two title rivals.
The home side – all at sea and described as “a mess” by Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville during a first half in which City targeted struggling stand-in right-back James Milner – were transformed at the start of the second period and hit the front when Mohamed Salah played in Sadio Mane for his 99th Premier League goal (59’ minute).
The excellent Phil Foden arrowed in an equaliser against the run of play 10 minutes later but Salah again gave Liverpool the lead (76), scoring one of his finest goals in their colours by beating four City defenders and drilling home.
On the touchline Pep Guardiola was still incensed that Milner hadn’t been shown a second yellow moments before the goal. But he was roaring with delight five minutes later, when Kevin De Bruyne hooked in City’s second equaliser off Joel Matip (81).
There was still time for even more late drama, as desperate blocks from Rodri and Andy Robertson in the final moments prevented either side grabbing a late winner, but in the end a draw was a fitting result between the Premier League’s standout sides in recent seasons, who look primed to battle it out with league leaders Chelsea over the course of this campaign.
As it happened
There was a tribute to Liverpool and England legend Roger Hunt before kick-off and the atmosphere had reached fever pitch by the first whistle. The hosts relished the occasion and were on the front foot in the early stages, with Diogo Jota almost playing in Mane.
However, City, who had been wayward with their passing under pressure in the opening minutes, were sparked into life after Jack Grealish, playing as a false nine, had a shot blocked by Matip.
A brilliant dribble from Bernardo Silva teed up Foden for a one-on-one which was saved by Alisson and De Bruyne shot across the face of goal as the defending champions began to take control – although a professional foul from Ruben Dias was required when the City defender’s slip almost let Jota in.
James Milner, playing in place of the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold, saw wave after wave of City attack come down his side and was fortunate not to give away a free-kick on the edge of the box when he collided with Foden. The City forward – who had also starred at Anfield in February – crossed for De Bruyne to send a diving header over at the back post.
Milner was booked for a foul on Foden soon after and saw the 21-year-old race away and onto a brilliant Ederson pass just before the half-time whistle – but fortunately for the hosts, Alisson was out quickly to deal with the danger.
Liverpool ramped up their intensity at the start of the second half, with Dias forced to make a good tackle on Jota after Jordan Henderson had robbed Rodri, before the Portuguese forward fired off the Reds’ first shot on target on 50 minutes.
And that revival was made to count nine minutes later when Salah glided past Rodri, drove at the City defence, and then released Mane to clinically slot in the opening goal.
With the Liverpool supporters roaring and Salah seeing a deflected free-kick go just wide, the tide had seemed to have turned. But out of nowhere City hauled themselves level. On 69 minutes, Gabriel Jesus bent a pass out to Foden on the left side and the Englishman drilled his shot across Alisson and into the far corner.
City were convinced Liverpool should have been reduced to 10 men when the already-booked Milner clattered into Bernardo, with Guardiola fuming at the decision to allow the Liverpool man to stay on the pitch. His mood worsened when Salah put Liverpool ahead again.
It was a moment of magic from the Egyptian, who produced wonderful skill to leave Cancelo, Bernardo, Foden and Aymeric Laporte in his wake before finishing brilliantly. He’s now scored in seven games in a row across all competitions.
But remarkably City, who had only conceded once before in the league prior to this match, responded again. And it was De Bruyne who delivered for the visitors, sending a left-foot shot into the net with the help of a deflection off Matip.
Fabinho and Jesus looked like they may still all three points during an end-to-end climax but vital blocks kept them at bay – and shared the spoils at the end of a fantastic contest.
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Milner (5), Matip (7), Van Dijk (6), Robertson (7), Fabinho (7), Henderson (5), Jones (6), Salah (9), Jota (6), Mane (8).
Subs used: Firmino (6), Gomez (6)
Man City: Ederson (7), Walker (7), Dias (7), Laporte (7), Cancelo (7), Bernardo Silva (8), Rodri (8), De Bruyne (7), Jesus (7), Foden (9), Grealish (5).
Subs used: Sterling (6)
Players of the match: Phil Foden and Mohamed Salah.