Walker, Otamendi's missteps exploited as Man City fall to Liverpool again
Manchester City succumbed to their third defeat in a week, falling to Liverpool 2-1 on Tuesday, and it saw them eliminated from the Champions League. The mountain was too high for them to climb, especially with the added baggage of an awful refereeing call right when the momentum was in their favour. The 5-1 aggregate scoreline doesn't tell the whole story, but there's no doubt City got what they deserved over the two legs.
When a rallying call was needed, City put on a blitz of a performance. The first-half intensity was up, there were some of the best football City have played this season and they should have gone in two goals up but for an atrociously bad offside call. When Bernardo Silva struck the post with a thunderbolt, it was clear City's luck was out.
In the past three games, the opposition have created a handful of chances and scored pretty much every one. Pep Guardiola may point to the officials, and he has a point: Mohamed Salah's opener at Anfield was offside, City had a good away goal wrongly ruled out, then Sane's strike was incorrectly flagged in the second leg. But the overall form must concern the manager, as beyond two spells of intense pressure in two first halves, Liverpool and Manchester United have kept City's attack at arm's length fairly comfortably.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- It was a gutsy team selection from Guardiola, and it almost worked. The damage was done in the first leg, and he lost the second leg through having to chase the game.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ederson Moraes, 6 -- Cool under pressure with the ball at this feet, but does the goalkeeper do enough to keep it out of the net? He was perhaps not strong enough to fumble the ball to Salah for the equaliser, though he was left horribly exposed by Nicolas Otamendi for the second.
DF Kyle Walker, 5 -- After a great start to the season, Walker is having a sticky patch. His work up and down the right flank was a little aimless and he didn't look as assured as normal under pressure.
DF Aymeric Laporte, 6 -- In a stretched game, the defender did well to close the space -- especially as City played a back three. However, he again looked nervy and kept finding himself high up the pitch and chasing back, despite City's top-heavy team.
DF Nicolas Otamendi, 5 -- It's impossible to look beyond the error that gifted Roberto Firmino the ball for 2-1. However, before that he played like he was a step away from the wheels falling off -- but a few crunching challenges saved his bacon ... until late in the second half.
MF Fernandinho, 7 -- Used as the single cautious midfielder, the Brazilian was excellent through City's first-half blitz. He broke up play and got the ball moving forward again quickly, but as City got frustrated he became more exposed to Liverpool's counterattacks.
MF Kevin De Bruyne, 7 -- The Belgian was clearly frustrated by the end because of the situation he was in, but credit where it's due: he never stopped trying to work the opening. It's a shame he never managed to pick through the visiting defence.
MF David Silva, 6 -- Whatever the creative midfielder tried, the ball just wouldn't bounce right for him. His touches always seemed to fall short or drop perfectly for the Liverpool defence, and his balls into the box from wide kept missing their targets.
MF Bernardo Silva, 8 -- How the midfielder didn't score is beyond pretty much everyone in the stadium. A cracking effort off the post was the highlight, but he was excellent at weaving into the box when City had the pressure on.
MF Leroy Sane, 7 -- The winger will count himself very unlucky. He was wrongly flagged for offside when he thought he'd made it 2-0 on the night. Despite that, he was caught offside far too often and should have ran at Trent Alexander-Arnold more often after the defender was booked.
MF Raheem Sterling, 8 -- If it doesn't work, try, try, try again. For all of the criticism Sterling gets, he was one of the few players most likely to get City out of the Anfield mess they'd created. He ran at defenders, caused a number of problems and could have had a penalty with one of those drives into the area.
FW Gabriel Jesus, 7 -- A lovely finish to set City on their way should have been the start of something special. He ran his bottom off, but faded towards the end.
FW Sergio Aguero, 5 -- It wasn't an ideal situation for the striker to be thrown back into after returning from injury and he didn't get a decent chance.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, N/R -- Something had to be done at the end of the game when the German replaced Bernardo Silva, but the game was long gone.
David Mooney is ESPN FC's Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney