Even Tighter at the Top as VAR Raises Questions After the Clash of the EPL Titans

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After the pulsating draw at Anfield, it is hard to believe that neither Liverpool nor Man City are top the Premier League table as we approach the next round of fixtures. Man City shaded the first half while the hosts were at their pressing, attacking best in the second.

The encounter saw The Reds start with odds of 13/5, according to the best football betting sites listed on SafeBettingSites, while bookmakers favoured the visiting Citizens at 11/10. The final 1-1 scoreline favoured punters backing the draw, with payouts to the tune of 3/1 winning the day. It could all have ended so differently for those betting, though, as both sides repeatedly threatened each other’s goal.

But for an unfathomable VAR decision by Stuart Attwell in optional time, Liverpool would have likely added to its already-long list of late goals this season. Jeremy Doku’s high-risk challenge on Alexis Mac Allister in the City box left Jurgen Klopp and many others in the Liverpool dugout incredulous as Michael Oliver ended the top-class encounter shortly afterwards.

Klopp didn’t mince his words at the post-match press conference, publicly vocalising the words probably on most Liverpool supporters’ lips as they made their way home after one of the most enthralling two hours of late afternoon entertainment they’ll witness for a while.

“It was 100% a penalty. They will find an explanation. It was 100% a foul in all areas of the pitch and probably a yellow card… All the people with iPads around me were ‘wow, clear’… Maybe they can hide behind the phrase ‘it is not clear and obvious’. “Why did the guy in the VAR room think it was not clear and obvious? What did he have for lunch?”

Citizens supporters may see the incident differently but would secretly have breathed sighs of relief while passing through Anfield’s hallowed gates on their return to Manchester. Man City had been run ragged by a Liverpool unit still short of several regular first-teamers, driven forward by Mac Allister’s penalty equaliser shortly after the second half started and the overwhelmingly vocal and passionate fans in the stadium.

Liverpool played out of their socks in the latter period. Darwin Nunez, whose speed and awareness forced the equalising penalty, was central to The Reds’ endeavours until his unrelenting efforts saw him withdrawn through fatigue midway through the half.

Virgil van Dijk was imperious in defence, also pinging regular long passes to his attacking teammates, with Luis Diaz, Nunez, and later Mohamed Salah as worthy recipients. Mac Allister and Harvey Elliott bossed the midfield against their illustrious opposition, with Wataru Endo providing the perfect foil defensively with his best game in Liverpool Red.

20-year-old Conor Bradley continued his rapid ascent as a Premier League player, while the performance of Jarell Quansah, only a year older, ensured Ibrahima Konaté’s enforced absence was never a talking point. The two youthful defenders shored up Liverpool’s right side, restricting the effectiveness of the experienced Bernardo Silva and the speedy Doku.

Caoimhin Kelleher, as Liverpool’s regular replacement for the injured Allison Becker, again defied his title as a backup goalkeeper at Anfield, saving smartly from the in-form Phil Foden’s boot to keep the scores level. The Irishman has been instrumental in The Reds’ prolonged title challenge this season.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola’s final meeting in the Premier League for the foreseeable future lived up to the hype, with the ultimate beneficiaries of the gripping stalemate undoubtedly being fellow title challengers Arsenal.

Although The Gunners hold the slightest of advantages as things stand, with an upcoming meeting with Man City on the horizon, Mikel Arteta’s form side still has it all to do. Liverpool could profit from the result of the clash between its rival EPL titans in the club’s quest to give Jurgen Klopp the ultimate send-off.

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