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article imageKlopp turns to Lallana's cunning movement to sink Man City

By Tyrrell Meertins     Mar 2, 2016 in Sports
Jurgen Klopp’s rejigged XI suggested Manchester City could possibly build on Sunday’s Capital one Cup triumph, but this was another convincing victory over Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
Pellegrini made two changes due to injury with Jesus Navas and Pablo Zabaleta replacing Yaya Toure and Bacary Sagna, but the contrast between their two displays against the Reds were stark. City’s route of success revolved around Aguero and David Silva a fortnight ago, but here, neither player excelled in Liverpool’s third.
Silva continued to receive possession in dangerous positions between the lines, but City’s buildup play was lethargic, and deprived of fluidity and cohesion in attack. Raheem Sterling was nullified on his return to Anfield as Jordan Henderson protected Jon Flanagan to ensure the former Liverpool player encountered 1v2 situations. On the opposite flank, Navas and Zabaleta displayed positive combination’s in the early stages of the match, but failed to connect with onrushing teammates in the box.
While Aguero was isolated for large portions of the match, City simply overcomplicated promising situations in the box with Silva and the aforementioned striker displaying signs of selflessness rather than shooting in legitimate goal-scoring positions. Simon Mignolet was rarely tested throughout, and Aguero’s pace rarely troubled Liverpool’s centre-backs.
Perhaps City missed Yaya Toure’s passing and brute strength in central areas, but Klopp’s side simply offered improved vigour and work-rate. Liverpool encouraged City to push forward by sitting deeper when Pellegrini’s men played out the back before instantly suffocating the away side to prevent simple passes into midfield.
But Liverpool’s passing remained sloppy in attacking zones. The midfield pairing of Fernando and Fernandinho successfully broke up play in the opening minutes, but poor positioning from City’s defensive six combined with Lallana’s movement disrupted City’s afternoon. Lallana’s opener came against the run of play, yet each Liverpool goal stemmed from the 27-year-old’s ability to locate pockets of space.
"From the beginning I saw Liverpool had more energy. They recovered the ball at high pace. We didn't have chances to score,” said Pellegrini.
“They could make more changes. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have any midfielders to change without Yaya [Toure]. We had just defenders or one striker to make the change. I think that was the difference”
The opening two goals witnessed Liverpool bypass City’s midfield to subsequently run at their proactive centre-backs. First, Lallana received a super pass from Milner between the lines, and ran towards the box to fire a tame effort past Joe Hart. The second goal was even better — Flanagan found Lallana between the lines — once again in an inside right position — and the England international dragged Nicolas Otamendi out of position before playing a back-heeled pass to an onrushing Roberto Firmino, who located Milner surging into the box.
Neither City midfielder were aware of Lallana’s movement, which ultimately enabled Klopp’s men to play penetrative passes around Joe Hart’s box. Although the Reds clearly struggle to connect passes in tight spaces, they still possess the ability to exploit ample space available in central areas, and comfortably breached City’s poor defensive shape.
Pellegrini turned to Wilfried Bony for the ineffective Sterling, and later pushed Silva deeper to introduce Kelechi Iheanacho for Fernandinho, yet City’s lopsided attack remained blunt. Nevertheless, while more space was available in the final third, Liverpool continued to take advantage of additional inexplicable defensive mistakes. In one sequence, poor tackles from Otamendi and Gael Clichy witnessed Lallana pick up a loose ball and charge past the former to create Firmino’s goal. Liverpool were clear winners by the hour mark, which further illustrated the Reds’ ascendency.
“This was about the mental thing, we had to show a reaction. The boys did brilliant, they were very angry in a positive way,” Klopp explained.
“If you score goals it makes life easier and we did that. I am too old to think from now on we will play like this all the time but it was a really important sign for us and they saw what is possible.”
Improved mobility and intelligent movement from wide areas were pivotal, but this offers more evidence that Liverpool’s counter-pressing remains their key attacking weapon. City’s disjointed lifeless performance puts their title, and next year’s Champions League qualification hopes in jeopardy as they were once again overwhelmed by Liverpool’s dynamic pressing and quick transitions.
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