Manchester City produced a spirited display to beat Liverpool 2-1 and cut the Merseysiders' lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points. Club journalist Rob Pollard has dissected the game's major talking points.
1Fernandinho’s finest hour
It’s a crowded field, but was this Fernandinho’s greatest performance for Manchester City?
So unselfish and diligent in his work, he was sensational from the word go.
He regained possession on nine occasions, made three key clearances and won seven of his 10 duels. The midfield battle was always going to be key and Fernandinho was the dominant force in that area.
The reaction of teammates is often a good barometer of a player’s quality, and this City squad regularly throw superlatives in the Brazilian’s direction.
Without him, our artistry is an impossibility.
2Backs to the wall
City under Pep Guardiola are most renowned for beautiful football, with aesthetic at the forefront of what we do.
But this victory was all about our tenaciousness, last-ditch tackles, flying headers and indomitable spirit - backs-to-the-wall characteristics we rarely need to call upon.
With the pressure and tension so high, it was never going to be a classic, but City showed the necessary spirit to get over the line.
The win was vital for City. Defeat would have seen us slip 10 points behind Liverpool, way off the pace and staring down the barrel of an unsuccessful title defence. The win means the gap is now just four points, a much more manageable deficit.
The question now is: who are the favourites?
Liverpool have the four-point cushion and showed once again last night what a top-class side they are. Advantage at this stage of the campaign, no matter how slender, is a preferable position.
But will Liverpool’s lack of title success in recent years hinder them? The pressure of a run-in does strange things to teams, and it remains to be seen how well they can negotiate such circumstances.
For City, will the momentum gained by such a stirring display reignite our season after a difficult December?
Much is likely to depend on the both teams’ schedule. Will Champions League involvement alter team selections and create fatigue?
Plenty of questions remain but one thing’s for sure: we have a proper title race on our hands.
Bernardo Silva was widely praised for his tireless display, the latest example of his selfless approach to the game.
He made a series of vital blocks, tackles and interceptions that helped limit Liverpool’s fluency.
And he ran 13.7km, the most any player has managed in the Premier League this season.
Second on the list? You guessed it, Bernardo Silva again (13.65km at Tottenham).
He’s a phenomenon.
Guardiola had described Liverpool as the best team in the world on current form before the game and it’s easy to see why.
They came into the match in the midst of a nine-match winning run and hadn’t been beaten in the Premier League for 23 matches, a sequence dating back to May.
In fact, this was the first time they had conceded two or more goals in 24 Premier League matches, a remarkable statistic that underlines their defensive improvement.
Finishing above them will be tough. They are the real deal.
The victory over Liverpool was Pep’s 100th in all competitions as City boss!
Sergio Aguero’s first-half firecracker means he has now scored in seven consecutive home matches against Liverpool.
It also brought up a significant career milestone. He has now bagged 250 goals since turning pro back in 2003.
And have you noticed his penchant for a near-post strike? His goal, a powerful drive that was too hot for Allisson to handle, was the latest in a fairly long line of them (v John Ruddy 2012, v Paddy Kenny 2012, v Petr Cech 2013, v David De Gea 2013 and 2018, v Tim Howard 2014, Hugo Lloris 2015).
37 - Most goals in Premier League matches between 'big six' clubs since the start of the 2011-12 season:— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 3, 2019
37 Sergio Aguero
21 Harry Kane
20 Wayne Rooney
18 Robin van Persie
17 Eden Hazard
David Silva equalled Joe Hart’s record of 266 appearances for City last night.
Well done, David!