Fabinho does Fabinho things – and then some

There were many reasons why Jurgen Klopp brought Fabinho to Liverpool in the summer of 2018.

Smashing one in from 20 yards wasn't among them.

Nobody in Red, though, was complaining when the Brazilian, encouraged by the home crowd, put his foot through a poor clearance from Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan to send Klopp's men on their way to a thrilling victory.

Only his second goal for the club on his 58th appearance – and Liverpool's ninth from outside the box in the Premier League this season, more than any other side – there's unlikely to be one more important.

But it was when Fabinho was doing Fabinho things that he consistently shone.

 

Headers were won, tackles completed, interceptions made. Again and again, Fabinho was in the right position at the right time.

Then there were the fouls. Much has been of City's reliance on tactical indiscretions, but that's the remit of every successful team.

So when Fernandinho upended Fabinho towards half-time, their subsequent embrace was forged on a bond only the knowledge of such dark arts can bring.

It wasn't just Fabinho working hard in midfield to win the arm wrestle.

Jordan Henderson, no doubt still feeling the effects of the illness that left him bed-ridden in midweek, provided an assist for Sadio Mane, while Gini Wijnaldum was monstrous in his industry and shielding of possession.

But Fabinho was the standout. To think he didn't start either of the Premier League games against City last season.

Salah arrives as Mane proves Guardiola right

Jurgen Klopp embraces Sadio Mane after the final whistle
Jurgen Klopp embraces Sadio Mane after the final whistle

It isn't just the left ankle that has been niggling away at Mohamed Salah in recent weeks.

The whispers have grown the Egyptian, ongoing injury worries notwithstanding, isn't quite at his usual level.

Yet his performance against Genk in midweek, when the only thing missing was a goal, hinted strongly at what was to come here.

And Salah duly obliged in the 13th minute, meeting Andy Robertson's cross with an unerring and underrated header into the bottom corner.

In the first half, Salah was in his pomp, his pace frightening Angelino, one turn away from two City players drawing purrs of appreciation from the home crowd.

His numbers keep racking up, now involved in 69 goals in 60 appearances at Anfield in all competitions – 51 goals, 18 assists – while scoring in three of his four home appearances against City.

Salah's second half was more difficult, asked to plough a lone furrow as the Reds sat back to protect their lead.

By then, of course, Sadio Mane had stayed true to his vow he would continue to dive if it meant Liverpool winning...launching himself at Henderson's floated cross towards the far post for the third.

That's 22 Premier League goals at Anfield since August 2018 – more than any other player has scored at a single venue in that time. Cheers, Pep.

Defence makes the difference

 
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero can't find a way past Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero can't find a way past Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren

Okay, that Anfield clean sheet remains elusive this season.

But Liverpool's defence deserves credit for the manner in which they, by and large, kept City at bay.

And the respective ability of the rival rearguards ultimately proved the difference here.

City, with players absent, were hesitant and at times weak. Liverpool, by contrast, were determined, resolute and with the strength of will to see the job through.

Dejan Lovren was admirable up against Sergio Aguero – it's now nine City games at Anfield without a goal for the Argentine – while Alisson Becker exuded confidence behind the imperious Virgil van Dijk.

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Liverpool vs Man City matchday

Indeed, City won a succession of corners but, having soon realised they were wasting their time with an aerial bombardment, ended up playing them short and making life easier for Liverpool.

Robertson and Alexander-Arnold will take plaudits for their attacking play, but defensively they held firm, even if the latter was given a difficult time by the returning Raheem Sterling.

Eight points clear, Liverpool are in a stronger position then they ever dared imagine after 12 games. Indeed, in Premier League history, only Manchester United in 1993/94 have had a bigger lead at this stage when nine points clear.

There is still a long, long way to go. But if ever there was a Liverpool team primed to end the wait for a league title, it's this one.