On Friday, Pep Guardiola said he would rather repeat last season’s domestic clean sweep than emulate Liverpool by winning the Champions League. Yesterday, his Manchester City side ticked off the first part of another possible quadruple but, in a warning of things to come, Liverpool made it very hard for them.
They took them to penalties. Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus all held their nerve from the spot. The outstanding Claudio Bravo’s save from Gini Wijnaldum proved decisive and, while Jurgen Klopp retains his record of beating Guardiola more than anyone else, City retained the Community Shield.
It was a terrific, action-packed game. If City were much the stronger side at the start, Liverpool rallied with a stirring second-half display. They finished the stronger to suggest their pre-season struggles have been confined to the past.
They pegged City back. Liverpool had already shown their set-piece menace even before, after a free kick, Virgil van Dijk provided a wonderfully deft lobbed cross and the substitute centre-back Joel Matip headed it in. Thereafter, Bravo had to excel to deny Mohamed Salah a winner. The Egyptian was irrepressible, scarcely looking a player with only 45 minutes of pre-season football before yesterday. He had a string of shots, providing everything but the goal.
In injury time, he drew an incredible goal-line clearance from Kyle Walker. He had already struck the post, following a fine drag-back. Seconds before that, van Dijk met Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner with a volley that struck the underside of the bar and the goal line. More than half the ball crossed the line, but not all of it.
If van Dijk excelled in his attacking efforts, Liverpool had defensive difficulties. The Anfield old boy Raheem Sterling kept running in behind the Liverpool defence, hitting the post when offside and delaying too long and missing his chance when Walker sent him scurrying in on goal.
He was a left winger by then, moving wider after Jesus came on. Sterling only spent 12 minutes as City’s striker, but it culminated in him scoring against Liverpool for the first time. It was a clever goal, David Silva hooking Kevin de Bruyne’s header into Sterling’s path after a well-worked free kick and Alisson was unable to hold the Englishman’s shot.
But it came when City were down to 10 men. Leroy Sane, who had almost broken the deadlock, had limped off with an injury that may force Bayern Munich to abandon their interest in signing him.
If City’s win may have come at a cost, it also brought a historical footnote.
After the introduction of yellow cards, Guardiola became the first top-flight manager to be booked, for complaining about a Joe Gomez challenge on David Silva. He has, of course, made history in many other ways.