It was a day to suggest that Liverpool and Manchester City is not just English football’s defining rivalry of the last few years, but of the current campaign as well. Each gave as good as they got in a sensational, scintillating second half, trading goals and sharing the points.
Over the course of a long, compelling duel, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have each won nine games against the other. Neither could enter double figures.
Each had moments when he must have thought he would. City squandered a host of first-half chances. Liverpool twice led, sending Anfield ecstatic each time, but Guardiola's team denied them the win that would have established a four-point gap between the sides.
In particular, Kevin de Bruyne did, City’s talisman having the final say by bending a shot in, albeit via slight deflection off Joel Matip, with his less-favoured left foot.
Many a recent City player has found goals at Anfield elusive but Phil Foden scored a second in as many visits — had he been more clinical, perhaps City would have got four, as they did in February — and yet, as several stars shone, perhaps the brightest was Mohamed Salah.
On current form, he is the Premier League’s outstanding player and he illustrated as much by creating Liverpool’s opener for Sadio Mane, who in turn capped his renaissance after a below-par season last year, and scoring in wonderful style.
It showcased pace, the ability to escape from a series of opponents in close quarters and the capacity to finish from an acute angle, Salah whipping in a shot after escaping the attentions of Bernardo Silva and Aymeric Laporte.
Guardiola was angered at the time: one of the many subplots was the presence of James Milner, the former City player who was struggling to deputise for the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold. It ranked as a surprise that the booked veteran returned for the second half and he escaped another caution for a foul on the sublime Silva seconds before Salah struck and then Klopp substituted him.
Milner was tormented by Foden, who threatened to be City’s trump card as a Guardiola tactical switch was pivotal. He is no stranger to springing surprises at Anfield. He produced another by fielding Jack Grealish as his false nine; the merit of it was it released Foden to take the summer signing’s usual role. He ran in behind the veteran Milner with relentless hunger.
After a blistering start, where City had looked rattled and Liverpool energetic, the visitors opened their hosts up time and again. When De Bruyne picked out the unmarked Foden, he headed wide.
When Silva embarked on a long and winding run and released Foden but Alisson made a terrific save from the resulting shot. When the inventive Joao Cancelo found De Bruyne, he dragged a shot wide and when he met Foden’s deep cross, he headed over. When Grealish emerged behind the Liverpool defence, he blazed over.
Yet Klopp’s half-time words produced a reaction. Liverpool did not test Ederson until the 50th minute when he parried Diogo Jota’s effort from the edge of the box.
Then the scorer supreme got an assist that stemmed from his pace and direct running. Salah collected the ball in his own half, sped forward and released Mane, who slid his shot under Ederson. Anfield erupted.
Grealish made way for Raheem Sterling but City’s equaliser instead came from a combination of the other two of the front three. Gabriel Jesus wove his way infield from the right flank to find Foden. This time his finish was clinical, drilled across Alisson and into the far corner.
Then Salah surged clear to score himself, only for De Bruyne to respond in kind. As the pendulum swung, Liverpool came closer to a winner. With Ederson out of position, Rodri made an extraordinary goal-saving intervention to block Fabinho’s goalbound shot. Honours even and, at the end of breathless game, that was probably the fairest outcome.