An enthralling Premier League game between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield was marred after an official complaint was lodged against a supporter for spitting at a member of the visiting backroom team.
Manchester City officials registered their disgust to Liverpool within minutes of the 2-2 draw, the champions adamant the incident was caught on camera. Liverpool said they would investigate.
City manager Pep Guardiola said he was aware of the situation and was confident appropriate action would be taken.
He said: “I didn’t see it but I’m pretty sure Liverpool FC will take measures for this guy. Liverpool is greater than this person. Liverpool in its history helps to make sport better. There are always people that will do that.”
Given the CCTV camera within Liverpool’s Main Stand, where the substitutes and backroom staff occupy their seats, and the fact an exclusion zone has been established around the area of the dug-out, identification and punishment should be swift.
The incident diverted attention away from what had been an exceptional game in which City dominated the first half, and fought back twice to repel a vastly improved second half performance from Jurgen Klopp’s team, during which Mohamed Salah scored one of the great individual goals.
Both managers acclaimed their team’s performance, although Guardiola was more content after following up last weekend’s win at title rivals Chelsea with another crucial point.
“My thought is the Premier League is the best in the world. What a game,” said Guardiola. “Congratulations Liverpool and both teams. Both teams were honest and wanted to win and wanted to play really good.”
Guardiola also cited a decision by referee Paul Tierney in failing to send off James Milner as potentially critical. Milner was booked in the first half and escaped a second caution after a trip on Bernardo Silva early in the second half.
“It is a yellow card if he was not yellow card,” said Guardiola. “He has to show the yellow card, for me. He has to show the second one. In these games, which are so tight, he has to. It doesn’t mean you are going to win against Liverpool in Anfield, but it is too obvious this action, to give James the second yellow.”
Liverpool and Klopp’s frustration is that having worked their way back into the game, and scored a spectacular goal worthy of being a matchwinner, they twice conceded an equaliser.
“Thank God there were two halves because the first was exactly like you shouldn’t do it against Man City and the second was exactly was how you should,” said Klopp. “In the first half I can’t remember a chance from us so I was really happy for the half-whistle so we could adjust a few things. We didn’t change anything, actually just told the boys again what we should have done in the first half.
“Things like this happen against a team like City with the dominance they have, when you are then a little bit passive without the ball and they pass through the lines and you never can really get in the challenges.
“Our biggest problem in the first half was we couldn’t play football. That doesn’t help. People come to a stadium and we didn’t play football, that sounds wrong and is wrong. We needed to start playing football in the second half, we did that immediately, it was obvious for everyone. All of a sudden City had to run a lot, defend completely differently to the first half because we played really good. If we played only the second half I would have really liked to win the game but together with the first half I think a point is fine.”
James Milner’s lucky escape shows Var still has yellow card flaw
By Keith Hackett
James Milner should have departed the field four minutes before his 78th-minute substitution by Joe Gomez – the veteran Liverpool player lucky not to have been shown a second yellow card for his clumsy challenge on Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva.
The ‘tackle’ was a foul that stopped a promising attack, and referee Paul Tierney should have demonstrated courage and issued a second yellow, followed by a red card. It was a mistake compounded by the fact that Liverpool, still with 11 men, went 2-1 up shortly afterwards with a brilliant individual goal from Mohamed Salah.
The sequence of events upset Manchester City’s manager Pep Guardiola so much that he was in the ear of fourth official Mike Dean, who nonchalantly chewed gum. To add insult to injury for the Spaniard, he was shown a yellow card for his protests. That City were eventually able to secure a point will have done little to diminish their manager’s sense of grievance.
Playing the last 15 minutes with Liverpool reduced to 10 men would, potentially, have made a huge difference to the result. Guardiola had a justified cause for complaint. I can only imagine that Tierney must have had some doubt about the challenge by Milner, understanding that he needed a clear view to make such a big call.