The English Premier League title is still up for grabs, as Manchester City scored a vital win over Liverpool on Thursday evening.
City’s 2-1 victory at home cut Liverpool’s advantage at the top of the table to just four points with nearly half the season still to play, and handed the leaders their first loss of the Premier League season.
Liverpool Comes Up Millimeters Short
The match at Etihad Stadium, which carried the atmosphere of a decisive playoff game, proved to be perhaps the most exciting contest of the EPL season thus far.
The level of intensity built from the opening kickoff, then reached a fever pitch after Sadio Mane nearly scored for Liverpool 18 minutes into the game. After Sane hit the post, there was a scramble for the ball, and John Stones attempted to clear the ball for City, only to see the ball hit his keeper Ederson and deflect back towards the goal line.
But Stones lunged back to the goal and cleared the ball off the line again, with replay later showing that he saved a goal by a matter of millimeters.
Close. *VERY* close.
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 3, 2019
The scoreless tie was broken in the 40th minute, when Sergio Aguero rocketed the ball in at a tight angle to beat Alisson and give City a 1-0 lead. That score would give the hosts the advantage heading into the halftime break.
But it was Liverpool that struck back in the second half. Just after an hour into the game, Liverpool strung together a series of passes that saw Roberto Firmino alone in the box for an easy header that tied the game and give the Reds hope of keeping a wide gap between themselves and City in the standings.
Managers: Game was ‘Intense,’ ‘Real’
But Manchester City found another goal in the 72nd minute. From the left side of the field, Leroy Sane fired in a shot that ricocheted off the far goalpost and managed to cross the goal line, giving City the winning advantage.
“The game was real game for both sides, two incredible teams,” Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola told reporters after the match. “We were outstanding from the first minute and happy with the victory to reduce the gap and everything’s open.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp echoed those sentiments, bemoaning his side’s squandered chances but saying that there was no shame in losing such a game.
“Very intense game. We were unlucky in our finishing moments, a bit more than City I would say,” Klopp said in his post-match press conference. “It was not our best game, not City’s best game because we both made life difficult for the other team. I’ve said already to the boys that’s completely okay, we could have won we could have drawn but that’s okay.”
Liverpool Narrowly Favored Over City in Title Race
The victory was welcome news not only for Man City, but also for Tottenham, as Spurs sit only six points back of Liverpool in third place. That kept all three teams very much in the title race, with Chelsea – now 10 points back – perhaps on the fringes of contention.
But for oddsmakers, the race is now a battle between the two leaders, and the odds suggest an even closer race than the standings do. William Hill still ranks Liverpool as the 4/5 favorite to win the EPL title, but Manchester City is now just a 6/5 pick, with other bookmakers like Ladbrokes offering as little as 11/10 on the Citizens. Tottenham is still given an outside chance at 16/1, while Chelsea (100/1), Manchester United (250/1), and Arsenal (500/1) are widely seen as being too far back to make a run at this point.