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Manchester City 3-2 Liverpool: Talking points as Premier League champions knock Carabao Cup holders

Manchester City have knocked out holders Liverpool from the Carabao Cup on Thursday evening with a 3-2 victory over their great rivals at the Etihad in the round of 16. Erling Haaland opened the scoring in the 10th minute, Fabio Carvalho equalized after another 10 minutes. Less than two minutes into the second half, Riyad Mahrez bagged the second for City, but it took about 60 seconds for Mohamed Salah to set the score level again. However, there was no Liverpool comeback after Nathan Ake scored City’s third in the 58th.

Questionable defending

It was obviously a thrilling match, with no certainty of outcome right until the final whistle and from that point of view, many will have enjoyed it. On the other hand, those tasked with improving the defensive side of the game for either team won’t be too happy with what they saw.

Joe Gomez started in the heart of defence for Liverpool along with Joel Matip, with Virgil van Dijk being one of the players rested after their exploits at the World Cup. Trent Alexander-Arnold was another one of those, which meant veteran James Milner starting at right-back.

Less than 20 seconds into the game, a fine turn in the middle of the park enabled Ilkay Gundogan to send a well-measured pass between Matip and Gomez for Haaland to chase, but the Norwegian striker failed to hit anywhere near the target with his first-touch attempt. Minute one was just expiring when Milner won the ball in Liverpool’s half and whipped a long pass for Darwin Nunez to latch onto, and the Uruguayan charged slightly to the left before Aymeric Laporte blocked his shot from a very good chance. Laporte’s block was, of course, great, but it doesn’t change the fact that the City defence was beaten far too easily by Milner’s ball.

For the opening goal of the game, Gomez was too slow to react to Kevin De Bruyne’s cross and Haaland took full advantage to put it in the back of the net from close range. Liverpool’s first equalizer came after Matip was allowed to carry the ball far up the pitch and find Milner between the lines and just inside the box on the right. Having realized their mistake too late, several players in sky-blue charged towards Milner, a former City player himself, leaving young Carvalho in acres of space in the middle. It really wasn’t too difficult for the 20-year-old to score from there. City’s second goal was a trademark Mahrez strike, brilliantly set up by a long diagonal from Rodri, but the question of why the Algerian winger was allowed to receive such a pass inside the box is perfectly valid. It seemed City had overloaded Liverpool’s flank far too easily, and Andy Robertson was left to keep an eye on practically three players – Haaland, threatening to move in between the Scottish left-back and substitute Nathaniel Phillips, De Bruyne who was directly in front, and Mahrez, pealing away to his left – at the same time.

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