City and Liverpool celebrated the return of club football to England in style. It was a hectic encounter. None seemed to be affected by the World Cup break. Six weeks after both clubs parked their respective courses, they met for the third time this season. It was Pep Guardiola’s men who started pressing more, being more intense and winning. Ten minutes needed Erling Haaland, one of the biggest absences from the World Cupto see goal. He did it after Kevin De Bruyne showed that he does not have a bad leg. He crossed with his left from the left wing. Haaland knew where the ball was going to end when he was thrown from the Belgian’s boot. And when it came out of the Norwegian’s boot, the trajectory was also easy to guess. Directly to the network. 19 games with his new team, 24 goals.
The locals continued to dominate, with up to six World Cup players in their starting eleven. Guardiola explained in the preview that they were the ones who had the most rhythm and the most fit. And they showed it. Despite this, and contradicting what was seen on the pitch, Liverpool equalised. The Mancunian defense disconnected and James Milner found Fábio Carvalho inside the area. He fired first, without pressure, and without problems to beat Stefan Ortega.
The dynamics were maintained for the rest of the first half, but at the start of the second, the predictions were blown up. Riyad Mahrez put City ahead again with a curling shot. A minute later came the response from another star who was not in Qatar. Mohamed Salah pushed the ball in after Darwin Núñez outpaced Aymeric Laporte. The Uruguayan had several options to score, but it was Nathan Aké who gave the cityzens victory, finishing off a cross from De Bruyne after a corner shortly before the hour mark. Crazy. An apparently decaffeinated tie, due to doubts about the fitness of the players, both those who had played in the World Cup and those who had rested.
It doesn’t matter who plays. The confrontations between mancunianos and liverpulianos have turned into a modern classic of the English soccer. Goals, emotion and tension always present. And claw. Maybe too much. Rodri and Fabinho clashed in midfield ten minutes from time causing a brawl that resulted in a booking for each player. The last two League Cup champions met at the Etihad Stadium, but it was Manchester City, winners in five of the last seven editions, who knocked out the current winner to sneak into the quarterfinals. Pep Guardiola’s team continues to advance in what has become his fetish competition. The light blues aspire to match their rival on Thursday as the team that has won the title the most times in history.
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Haaland and De Bruyne shine in a memorable match