Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool: Sane's strike fires title race wide open as Liverpool taste their first league defeat 
Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Man City via Getty Images

Manchester City are back into the title race, as Leroy Sane's second-half strike proves enough to inflict defeat upon Liverpool for the first time in this Premier League season.

City move up to second, and now sit just four points behind the leaders, following a thrilling, dramatic and action-packed encounter at the Etihad.

Story of the match

The game started out a cagey affair, with both sides struggling to create any real goalscoring opportunities early on.

It could be said, however, that it was the league leaders who looked most nervous, as Sadio Mane, Alisson and James Milner all squandered the ball into touch within the first five minutes.

The Merseysiders seemed happy to sit back and let the home side have possession, before exploding onto the counter-attack in the 18th minutes.

Mohammed Salah set through Mane, who showed his pace up against the City back three before striking early past Ederson and hitting the post. The follow-up effort was then squandered off the line by Ayermic Laporte, and somehow City had kept the ball out.

Two minutes later Liverpool again broke down the right, before again picking out Mane who this time fired straight at Ederson – the game had exploded into life.

Vincent Kompany challenged Salah on the edge of his own half, with many in the away ended expressing they felt that after the Belgian had given the ball away cheaply and rashly dived in, the City captain should’ve seen red.

As the half went on, it became more and more apparent that Jurgen Klopp’s men were happy to let the Citizens have the majority of the possession. Half chances fell the way of Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero, although both attackers efforts were blocked, leaving Alisson with very little to do inside the first half an hour.

Out of nowhere, with five minutes to go before half-time, City took the lead.

Virgil van Dijk had held Aguero at bay throughout the first 45, although once Dejan Lovren was tasked with the job of marking the Argentine, he failed, as Aguero spun the Croatian and expertly fired into the roof of the net from close range.

It was City’s first real opening of the game, although few can argue that they didn’t deserve to take the lead as they dominated the ball for large spells.

Into the second half, it was clear that Klopp’s men were looking to press higher, with a bit more urgency, as they looked to avoid their first defeat of this league campaign.

Trent Alexander-Arnold fired just wide of the City goal, as the Reds looked to get more numbers forward early in the half.

Following a large spell of possession, Liverpool then equalised.

Klopp’s men had dominated the ball for around 10 minutes, forcing the City backline further and further back, until eventually pinning the Blues down.

A diagonal ball was played out to the overlapping Andy Robertson, who squared to an unmarked Robert Firmino, the Brazilian had been relatively quiet before tapping past Ederson from a few yards out – a potentially huge goal in the title race.

Almost immediately, Sane then fired the home side back in front!

Sane picked the ball up from ex-Liverpool man Raheem Sterling down the left, drove forward and fired perfectly past Alisson, clipping the post on the way in, and the Etihad erupted again.

The eruption in the stands soon fell back into nerves, with the fans of the Blues knowing this slender lead could mean all the difference as to who lifts the title in May.

Aguero had the chance to wrap the game up with 10 minutes to play, as he was set through by Sterling, although Alisson stood up to the Argentine and saved well.

This was followed by an equally impressive piece of goalkeeping down the other end, as Ederson brilliantly tipped Salah’s effort wide.

A few half chances came and went for both sides in the dying stages, although in the end, City's backline stood strong enough to blow the title race wide open.

Takeaways from the match

VAR could’ve made a difference

Every time a controversial refereeing decision occurs in a top-flight game, the VAR debate is brought up.

The Premier League have announced that the technology will be used from the start of next season, although had it been introduced earlier, this potentially title-deciding clash could’ve ended differently.

With the score level at 0-0 some feel that City captain Kompany should’ve seen red for a challenge on Salah, which could’ve ultimately seen this encounter pan out differently, as the home side took the lead just minutes later.

Liverpool’s defensive vulnerabilities found?

Prior to this game, Klopp’s men looked almost unbreakable at the back, having conceded just eight goals in 20 games.

City pinpointed, and made it obvious very early in the game, that the majority of their attacks would come from the left flank, and it was clear to see why as Lovren and Alexander-Arnold struggled on occasions to deal with the pace down that wing – a possible weakness that teams could look to breach in coming games.

Title race back on

Ahead of this clash, with Liverpool still unbeaten in the league, many felt that City wouldn't be unable to claw back a seven-point deficit, should they not have secured all three points.

Guardiola’s men certainly made hard work of it, giving the ball away sloppily too many times in the second half, but have now moved back up into second, trailing the leaders by four point with 17 matches to play – the title race is on.