MANCHESTER – Such intensity, such fine margins but nothing decided. The destination of the Premier League title does, though, remain in Manchester City’s hands.
Liverpool has to rely on the champions slipping up to regain the trophy.
A 2-2 draw between England’s preeminent rivals for the second time this season left City still a point ahead at the top of the standings on Sunday.
But Liverpool twice coming from behind — Sadio Mané's equalizer 47 seconds into the second half sealed the point — does more than keep the title race very much alive. It reassured captain Jordan Henderson that Liverpool has the character and resilience to seize every moment in the remaining seven games.
“You’ve got to be prepared to suffer at times and stay on the front foot," Henderson said. “It worked at times and we got our goals from that, but at other times we could have defended better.”
The ferocity of the first half showed why City was 14 points ahead in January but also why the 2020 title winners are still in contention.
For all the moments of high quality there were also slip-ups and unfortunate moments that could have been more consequential.
Liverpool conceded the opener in the fifth minute after being caught when a free kick was taken quickly and Bernardo Silva then set up Kevin De Bruyne, with the resulting shot shifting direction via a deflection off Liverpool defender Joel Matip.
“You can describe it a little bit like a boxing fight," Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said. “Both arms down for a second and you get a massive knock.”
And then get up off the canvas.
In a breathless opening, Trent Alexander-Arnold's cutback was turned in by Diogo Jota to draw Liverpool level. Another goal was nearly gifted. City goalkeeper Ederson slipped as he tried to clear Kyle Walker's back pass but he recovered just in time to prevent the ball rolling into the net.
“They defend really well but it’s possible to give them some struggles," Klopp said. “Around our goals we did exactly that. I would have liked they did it more often but obviously the intensity was crazy."
The surprise sprung in the City lineup was Gabriel Jesus starting in the forward line. But a 15-match league goal drought ended in the 36th minute when he beat the offside trap to get on the end of João Cancelo's cross and lift the ball over goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Whatever Klopp told his Liverpool players at halftime worked. From the restart, Alexander-Arnold played in Mohamed Salah and the pass was slipped in for Mané to lift a shot over onrushing City goalkeeper Ederson for a goal on his 30th birthday.
Pep Guardiola slumped into his padded seat. When the City manager leapt out of that seat 20 minutes later, the joy proved premature as a VAR offside call denied Raheem Sterling a winner. Riyad Mahrez was onside when he broke free in stoppage time but could not find the target when he scooped the ball over the Liverpool goal.
So no celebrations for Guardiola, just an embrace with Klopp after the final whistle. And mutual admiration.
“Jürgen is the best," Guardiola said. “We try to do this beautiful show."
There's not long to wait for the next instalment. An FA Cup final place will be on the line when they meet at Wembley on Saturday. The Premier League and Champions League remain the bigger targets.
“I had a feeling that we left them alive, but Liverpool is a joy to watch," Guardiola said.
It’s tight at the bottom, and Norwich is keeping up the fight to avoid the drop after beating relegation-rival Burnley 2-0.
Goals from Pierre Lees-Melou and Teemu Pukki moved the last-place team within seven points of survival, but 17th-place Everton has a far superior goal difference. Burnley is four points behind Everton, while Watford is a further two adrift.
Brentford can be more certain of not being sucked into the relegation fight after beating West Ham 2-0. Bryan Mbeumo and Ivan Toney set each other up for goals for the win that moved Brentford 12 points clear of the relegation zone with six games remaining.
Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, a 23-year-old Leicester academy graduate, scored his first Premier League goal after assisting Ademola Lookman’s opener to clinch a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace. Leicester dislodged Palace from ninth place.
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