The ghost of Shamfield is well on the way to being exorcised by City boss Pep Guardiola who has clearly learned from last season’s debacles and realised, as did Napoli in midweek that if you take the steam out of an engine then it doesn’t function.
Although Liverpool’s red engine huffed and puffed for 20 minutes or so, City denied them the momentum they desired, slowed things down to a different pace and thereafter looked the most likely to go home with the spoils.
However, the spoils were to be spoiled by the penalty miss of the decade, when new boy Mahrez, given licence by Guardiola to over-ride the claims of Gabriel de Jesus and drilled the ball into the second level of the Anfield Road end to the disbelief of the City fans installed to his left and to the delight of the Scousers to his right.
This was perhaps Pep’s only error of the day, but what an error! For the first time since Nicolas Anelka sank the Scousers back in 1993, a win at Anfield, City’s one missing commodity was up for grabs and as the fans prepared to celebrate, there was clearly some form of on-field disagreement as de Jesus prepared to be the hero, exactly as he was at Southampton when his last-gasp promptings delivered the magical century of points with the last kick of the season.
I have to say, the moment that Mahrez placed the ball and in the knowledge that he is left-footed, my heart started to sink. There is a catalogue of glaring and almost life-changing misses by left-footers over the years – Stuart Pearce, twice, and Chris Waddell are the first that spring to mind – and I just had the hunch that Mahrez wasn’t going to do it. He looked as nervous as a kitten preparing to take the kick, and even with wonder-goalie Allison already in one corner, he couldn’t slide it into the other. Wouldn’t it have been just lovely, had last season’s double winner Raheem Sterling been still on the field to tuck it away and silence the mickey-mousers for good?
City can take away a fountain of knowledge from this match and maybe, just maybe use it to their advantage the next time they parade in front of the Coachbusters.