Guardi­ola played part in miss by Mahrez

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL -

LIVER­POOL 0

MANCH­ESTER CITY 0

PREMIER LEAGUE

RIYAD MAHREZ missed an 85thminute penalty as Liver­pool and Manch­ester City had to set­tle for a point apiece at An­field.

The visi­tors had three pre­vi­ous claims for a spot-kick be­fore Vir­gil van Dijk’s chal­lenge on sub­sti­tute Leroy Sane even­tu­ally re­sulted in one, but £60m sum­mer sign­ing Mahrez blazed over.

It re­sulted in the first goal­less draw be­tween these two at An­field since 1986 – and also City’s first clean sheet at the ground since then – but Reds man­ager Jur­gen Klopp will be cel­e­brat­ing to­day’s third an­niver­sary at the club as the hap­pier man­ager.

The point al­lowed City to re­gain top spot from Chelsea, who had briefly taken over af­ter their win over Southamp­ton ear­lier in the day, but their op­po­nents dropped to third.

How­ever, the top three are all on 20 points and sep­a­rated by goal dif­fer­ence only.

It was billed as the big­gest game of the sea­son so far, but it failed to live up to those ex­pec­ta­tions as, un­til the last 15 min­utes, both sides ap­peared re­luc­tant to com­mit to all-out at­tack for fear of what the con­se­quences at the other end might be.

Mo­hamed Salah, who failed to score in a league match at An­field for only the se­cond time since Box­ing Day last year, fired an early ef­fort wide af­ter turn­ing John Stones, but it said much about the first half that it was the clos­est ei­ther side came to threat­en­ing a goal.

City man­ager Pep Guardi­ola, aware of how twice on this ground last sea­son Liver­pool blew them away in a 25-minute spell, ap­peared to have set up his side to ab­sorb much of the early pres­sure and take the sting out of Liver­pool with a view to try­ing to cap­i­talise later on.

Guardi­ola did not blame Mahrez for miss­ing the penalty – which was ham­mered high above the bar – but did apol­o­gise to Gabriel Je­sus for not al­low­ing him to take it. The Brazil­ian had been keen, but Guardi­ola sent a mes­sage on to the field via Ben­jamin Mendy telling him to de­fer to Mahrez.

“Yes, he wanted it,” said Guardi­ola, who had al­ready sub­sti­tuted chief penalty-taker Sergio Aguero. “I apol­o­gise.

“But dur­ing the train­ing ses­sions I see (Mahrez) tak­ing the penal­ties and it gives me a lot of con­fi­dence.”

Klopp had no is­sues about the late award of the penalty.

He said: “It feels much eas­ier to say it was a penalty when he didn’t score, but I saw it. I think he touched the ball a bit, but not enough. He touched Sane more.

“But we de­serve this bit of luck with this per­for­mance.

“We had on Wed­nes­day a lit­tle set­back for sure. To re­spond is re­ally im­por­tant when the next op­po­nent is Manch­ester City. If we had de­fended like we did against Napoli, it’s a 7-0.”

Van Dijk ad­mit­ted: “It was not smart to dive in there – it was a penalty and I said that to the ref­eree af­ter­wards. Ob­vi­ously I’m very happy that it didn’t go in.”

PIC­TURE: MARTIN RICKETT/PA WIRE

PENALTY: Manch­ester City were awarded a late spot-kick for this chal­lenge by Liver­pool’s Vir­gil van Dijk on Leroy Sane but Riyad Mahrez blasted his ef­fort high over the bar.

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