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Manchester City edge five-goal EFL Cup thriller with Liverpool

Manchester City edge five-goal EFL Cup thriller with Liverpool

Liverpool‘s EFL Cup defence ended in the fourth round at the hands of Manchester City, who edged a pulsating contest 3-2 at the Etihad to advance to the quarter-finals.

The out-of-sorts holders managed to get to half time at 1-1 after Erling Braut Haaland‘s strike was cancelled out by Fabio Carvalho, and a frenetic start to the second period saw Riyad Mahrez and Mohamed Salah net within 80 seconds of one another.

However, Nathan Ake would settle the contest after meeting a cross from man of the match De Bruyne, who banished his painful World Cup memories to return to his marvellous ways in sky blue.

A somewhat bizarre light and pyrotechnics show kicked off proceedings at the Etihad, but those packed into the stadium enjoyed quite the spectacle from the home team in the earliest stages, with Liverpool simply not at the races.

The hosts’ dominance was rewarded with just 10 minutes on the clock, as De Bruyne’s cross from the left met Haaland, who caught Joe Gomez napping and got across the Liverpool man to stick a boot out and find the bottom corner for his 24th goal of the season.

Haaland’s opener was no less than Pep Guardiola‘s men deserved, but adding a second proved to be a fruitless endeavour, despite a noticeably rusty performance from Gomez in the Liverpool backline.

Jurgen Klopp‘s crop began to string a few belated passes together and were unexpectedly level just 10 minutes after Haaland’s opener, with James Milner finding space in the box following strong play from Joel Matip and picking out Carvalho to drag the ball into the bottom corner.

Fabio Carvalho celebrates scoring for Liverpool against Manchester City in the EFL Cup on December 22, 2022© Reuters

Neither side showed any shreds of complacency in their first competitive fixture since the World Cup, and City carved out two gilt-edged chances to try to restore their lead in the 36th and 37th minutes, but Caoimhin Kelleher‘s trailing leg kept out Ilkay Gundogan‘s effort before Ake connected with a sublime Kevin De Bruyne cross, only to see his header also saved by the Liverpool number two.

The profligate Darwin Nunez had the last act of the half – meeting Andy Robertson‘s outswinging free kick but diverting his side-footed volley a whisker wide of the post to cap off a relentless opening 45.

A midfield reshuffle was enacted at half time by Klopp, who also lost Milner to an apparent hamstring injury in the opening half, as Fabinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain entered the fray for Stefan Bajcetic and goalscorer Carvalho respectively.

There was barely any time for the substitutes to stretch their legs before City found themselves 2-1 up, though, as Rodri‘s long ball was brought down immaculately by Riyad Mahrez inside the box, as the Algerian took one touch to cut inside before finding the far corner in the 47th minute.

However, City certainly proved why teams are at their most vulnerable when they have just conceded, as just 80 seconds after Mahrez’s strike, Nunez burst down the left after a stunning pass from Oxlade-Chamberlain before picking out Salah to tap home into an empty net.

The goal fest showed no signs of ceasing as the game approached the hour mark, and yet another exemplary De Bruyne cross worked wonders in the 58th minute, as a short corner routine ended with Ake heading home from the Belgian’s sublime delivery to the back post.

Audible groans were heard when Nunez once again dragged an effort from a promising position wide in the 72nd minute, and tempers soon flared as meaty challenges began to fly in.

Guardiola’s defence held firm in the dying embers as City take another step towards a fifth EFL Cup crown in six seasons, and the Premier League champions will take on Southampton at St Mary’s in the quarter-finals.

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