Liverpool brilliantly executed a considered game plan to earn a 1-0 victory at home to Manchester City on Sunday.
After an incredibly difficult start to their Premier League season, the pressure was on the Reds to avoid falling as far as 15 points behind their visitors, who had been rampant until arriving to Anfield and could've established such a mammoth gap with a win.
Deploying a more conservative approach, Liverpool did well to nullify City in the first half and countered effectively. City looked to pull ahead after half-time, but when their goal was ruled out by VAR, the hosts rallied and a moment of magic from Mohamed Salah was enough to clinch three vital points.
Neither side were willing too start at too high a tempo and leave themselves vulnerable to conceding an early goal. And while Liverpool were the hosts, they were happy to sit back in a more compact shape and concede possession, in an attempt to get in behind the visitors.
Liverpool's press triggers were unclear at first, but as the half grew on, they grew in confidence with City not moving the ball quickly or efficiently enough through the lines and managed to catch them out more frequently. Diogo Jota worked from back to front to bring his side into the game and had a brilliant chance to head Liverpool into the lead after 21 minutes, but his effort was too tame.
Considering the differing trajectory of the two sides heading into the fixture, more was expected of City's performance, which lacked speed and urgency in their passing. Despite Erling Haaland coming close on a few occasions as the half opened up, Alisson was never significantly tested and Liverpool kept their visitors at arms length with relative ease, heading into half-time.
City came out with more belief in the second half and tried to up the ante, but still lacked their usual punch and ability to completely swallow their opponents. After dominating possession, it was Liverpool who were a whisker away from taking the lead when Mohamed Salah pounced on a through ball from Roberto Firmino and forced a fine stop out of Ederson after 50 minutes.
Mere moments after almost falling behind, City had the ball in the back of the net when Phil Foden bundled in a rebound after Alisson failed to smother a shot from Haaland, only for the goal to be chalked off due to the Norwegian's foul on Fabinho at the start of the move.
The lengthy VAR check opened up the game tremendously and saw Liverpool catch City's defence sleeping. Salah floated a cross over to an unmarked Jota, who somehow put a free header over the bar.
Jurgen Klopp's side sat in after a hectic period and saw off waves of attacks from City who dominated the ball, but couldn't test Alisson. Following a trio of changes and a long punt from the Brazilian goalkeeper after 76 minutes, Salah brushed off Joao Cancelo with a mesmeric turn before coolly slotting past Ederson for 1-0, completely against the run of play.
City searched frantically for an equaliser as the game headed to the final whistle, but Liverpool held on for a huge victory, marred only by a red card for Jurgen Klopp and the sore sight of seeing Diogo Jota stretchered off in injury time.
Liverpool vs Man City: Player ratings - Premier League
1. Liverpool (4-3-3)
GK: Alisson - 7/10 - Massively let off the hook by VAR, but made amends with a shrewd long punt to assist Salah.
RB: James Milner - 7/10 - Held his own after being thrust into the XI for a huge game. Kept Foden very quiet.
CB: Joe Gomez - 8/10 - Monstrous performance to match Haaland physically but also maintain concentration throughout. Seriously impressive.
CB: Virgil van Dijk - 7/10 - A solid partner for Gomez and covered accordingly.
LB: Andy Robertson - 7/10 - Disciplined display as expected. Did very well to nullify City's right flank and force them to go down the left instead.
CM: Fabinho - 7/10 - A combative performance from the Brazilian, who looked more like his usual self.
CM: Harvey Elliott - 6/10 - Lacked the confidence to make a decision on the ball when needed. Was key in helping Milner defensively, though.
CM: Thiago Alcantara - 6/10 - Would've liked to have seen him try to hold possession more often to relieve some pressure on his side.
RW: Mohamed Salah - 9/10 - Came to life in the second half and was the perfect outlet on the counter attack. Having missed his first one vs one, he was never missing the second. Turned Cancelo into dust.
ST: Roberto Firmino - 6/10 - Quietly did his best work in spells, threading through his colleagues by dropping deep.
LW: Diogo Jota - 7/10 - Should've scored, but worked tirelessly on and off the ball to set the tone in a mammoth performance. A shame to see him stretchered off with injury.
SUB: Jordan Henderson (72' for Fabinho) - 6/10 - Settled things down from the bench.
SUB: Darwin Nunez (72' for Firmino) - 5/10 - Didn't get his head up when Liverpool were three on one; could've been a second goal.
SUB: Fabio Carvalho (72' for Elliott) - N/A
SUB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (90' for Salah) - N/A
SUB: Kostas Tsimikas (90' for Jota) - N/A
Manager: Jurgen Klopp - 8/10 - Pragmatic and brave, Klopp's decisions paid dividends. Returned to a more familiar shape, but set his team up to counter attack. A brilliant tactical performance, marred by his late sending off.
2. Man City (4-3-3)
GK: Ederson - 6/10 - Down bravely to deny Salah with a fantastic save early in the second half.
RB: Joao Cancelo - 4/10 - Loose touches, lacked confidence and crucially caught under the ball for Salah's goal. He won't want to see that again. Ouch.
CB: Ruben Dias - 5/10 - Did well to block a dangerous cross from Robertson in the first half, but was spun into oblivion by Salah after the break and often looked stretched. Shaky.
CB: Manuel Akanji - 6/10 - Confident both in possession and when challenged defensively. Has slotted into City's back line seamlessly.
LB: Nathan Ake - 4/10 - Shifted inside to form a back three in possession. Made City appear somewhat imbalanced.
CM: Rodri - 5/10 - Stalled on the ball too often in the first half; looked uncharacteristically nervy.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan - 6/10 - The German ensured City maintained possession in key areas and pressed intelligently.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne- 4/10 - Played some lovely passes as the game opened up, but nowhere near effective enough considering his ability.
RW: Bernardo Silva - 6/10 - Industrious as ever. Would've liked to have seen him help Foden out in taking advantage of Milner more often, but still impressive.
ST: Erling Haaland - 5/10 - A mixed performance. Suffered due to poor performances around him, but also lacked his usual, clinical edge. Finally fires a blank after 10 consecutive scoring appearances.
LW: Phil Foden - 4/10 - The England international finished well when called upon, but didn't hurt Milner enough at all.
SUB: Julian Alvarez (90' for Gundogan) - N/A
Manager: Pep Guardiola - 5/10 - Didn't trust his bench, which was strange considering City's wealth of options and the clear fact that something wasn't working. His side looked robotic and times and fell into too many traps.