Liverpool were in excellent form as they held on to seal a vital 1-0 victory over Man City at Anfield on New Year’s Eve night.
Liverpool 1-0 Manchester City
Premier League, Anfield
December 31, 2016
Goals: Wijnaldum 8′
Simon Mignolet – 8 (out of 10)
Came out fighting in an interview with the Times ahead of the game, insisting supporters should not expect Loris Karius to take his place back between the sticks any time soon, and it was clear the Belgian is in confident form – even juggling over Sergio Aguero outside his box in a Bruce Grobbelaar inspired moment in the first half.
His goalkeeping could not be faulted, helping to stem the tide in the final half-hour, while his distribution was markedly improved. Karius could have a hard time winning his place back.
Nathaniel Clyne – 7
Bizarrely linked with a move to City back in October, Clyne has maintained his steady, if unspectacular, form throughout 2016, and was much the same on Saturday night.
Much of the rest of his night was spent in the defensive third, keeping it neat and tidy.
Dejan Lovren – 8
Lovren was walking a tightrope at Anfield on New Year’s Eve, facing suspension if he picked up another yellow card and pitting himself against one of the Premier League’s most formidable attacks.
The Croatian was on his toes throughout, looking to step out and quell attacks with a strong reading of the game, though when City gained control his no-nonsense approach was rather shaky.
Ragnar Klavan – 8
Keeping his place in the starting lineup with Joel Matip injured and Lucas Leiva seemingly bound for Italy, Klavan responded well following a tough start that saw him carded for a foul on Sergio Aguero.
Served as cover for Lovren’s front-footed stopper, and coped well, while the way he opens his body up when receiving possession is a simple yet invaluable asset for the Reds at the back.
James Milner – 7.5
Against his old club in a new position, Milner was tasked with shackling a familiar face in Raheem Sterling, taking a robust approach against the young winger—and proving largely successful.
Jordan Henderson – 7
Provided more physical support with the inclusion of Emre Can in midfield, Henderson seemed to have been handed the freedom to dictate from deep, this was the case throughout his 64 minutes on the field.
He pressed well, but as with many of the midfielders at Anfield on the night, however, Henderson’s passing was sloppy, and he will have been disappointed as he trudged off.
Emre Can – 7.5
The only change to Klopp’s steady starting lineup, Can was ostensibly fielded to add power and physicality to the Liverpool midfield, and this proved to be a sensible decision by the manager.
The German steamed into challenges to ensure his side kept up their intensity, and largely kept it simple in possession, taking over from Georginio Wijnaldum, who picked up Lallana’s duties.
When taking over from Henderson at the base of midfield, Can assumed the role of general, roaring his side on and looking to lead by example.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 9 (Man of the Match)
Klopp hailed the Dutchman’s subtle influence before the game, but his impact was more apparent at Anfield on New Year’s Eve, powering a header past Claudio Bravo after just eight minutes—only his second since joining from Newcastle United in July.
With emphasis shifting, his covert brilliance resumed, serving as a constant outlet in possession and a dutiful defender when City looked to build in the midfield. A star.
Sadio Mane – 7
In his penultimate game before joining Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations, all eyes were on Mane after he recalled his part in a 3-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich while with Red Bull Salzburg.
As ever, his pace was a constant threat and he will be sorely missed in January. Wasn’t afraid to put in a challenge and do the hard graft, but did miss an opportunity to play in Firmino in the second half.
A convincing contender for Liverpool’s standout player of 2016, Lallana continued to stake his claim despite taking up a different role on the left of Klopp’s three-man attacking line.
Initially, this came with a fantastic cross for Wijnaldum’s header, and he maintained this by leading Liverpool’s pressing game, as well as tracking back diligently to support Milner against Sterling.
Moved back into central midfield following Henderson’s departure, and kept up the tempo as ever.
Roberto Firmino – 7.5
With Divock Origi dropping to the substitutes’ bench, Firmino moved back into his most effective role as a No. 9—where he proved so devastating in Liverpool’s 4-1 win away to City just over a year ago.
He wasn’t as influential as expected in the first half, however, with his touch and sharpness eluding him.
Ironically, it was only when he moved back to the left that he improved, pressing hard, interchanging with intelligence and troubling the City defence on the move.
Divock Origi (on for Henderson, 64′) – 7 – Brought on at a difficult time for the Reds, but provided a much-needed energy in the final third and, crucially, physicality in holding on for the win.
Lucas Leiva (on for Mane, 90′) – N/A – Was this the Brazilian’s last game for Liverpool?
Jurgen Klopp – 9
Klopp made a big call in dropping Origi for arguably his important game of the season so far, explaining in his pre-match interview with BT Sport that he needed “Emre’s physical skills in midfield with Lallana a little bit ahead.”
It certainly paid off, with Lallana laying on the only goal of the night and Can’s defensive prowess allowing Wijnaldum to surge forward and finish off the move with a fine bullet header.
Where Klopp really earns his high mark, however, comes in how the German managed the game once his side took the lead.
Liverpool adopted a more hardened, defensive edge, in a stark contrast to their hugely important clash with Chelsea towards the end of the 2013/14 campaign, grinding out the victory.
Sending on Origi for Henderson gave the Reds a more physical presence in the final third, with the Belgian seemingly holding the ball up the corner for much of his 26 minutes on the field.
This was a true statement win, led by a manager with genuine experience of title success.