Jurgen Klopp likened Liverpool’s exhilarating 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Super Sunday to a “boxing fight” as the Premier League’s title protagonists traded blows at the Etihad Stadium.
Kevin De Bruyne fired the champions into a fifth-minute lead at the Etihad Stadium but Diogo Jota levelled eight minutes later for the second-placed Reds.
Gabriel Jesus restored City’s advantage before the break but Sadio Mane marked his 30th birthday with a second equaliser for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Raheem Sterling thought he had put City ahead for a third time against his former club but VAR ruled against him in a tight offside decision and substitute Riyad Mahrez hit the post late on.
The result ended Liverpool’s 10-match winning league run and left City a point clear with just seven games of the season remaining.
City retain their one-point lead at the summit, and Klopp told Sky Sports: “It was like a boxing fight. You have your arms down for a second and get a massive knock and you shake a little.
“I liked a lot of things. I thought we were closer than ever. The second half start was much better. City really tried obviously things like balls in behind. It makes sense when you have these smart runs. In moments when we tried to breathe a little bit another one comes. It was a great game and the result, we have to live with and can live with.
“We could do better but in a lot of moments, we did really well. The intensity of the game is crazy. It was good fun, I liked it.”
On what he said to his players at half-time, Klopp added: “We showed [our] goal because it was a really good football situation which if we did more we would have chances. I was convinced we could win this game. They were much more direct than us today. They had a more direct idea than us and we wanted to let them run when in possession.
“Defensively we were sometimes in a rush, they put us under pressure and we can defend these situations better. The second half was really intense, they needed breaks as well, but their counter-attacks are not bad. Their decision making is really good and they always pick the right player.
“I think it is a completely fine and deserved draw. We wanted to make sure they see my boys are exceptional as well.
“Seven games to go for both teams and we will not stop chasing now that’s for sure. Let’s make sure we are ready for Benfica, for this team at Wembley [in the FA Cup semi-final] and then we will see who will have the better finish.”
Guardiola: Klopp likes these punching games
Manchester boss Pep Guardiola: “He [Klopp] likes these punching games. It was a fantastic advert for the Premier League. Both teams wanted to win. I had the feeling we left them alive but Liverpool are a joy to watch, I know how good and difficult they are.
“We performed really, really well. I’m so proud of the team. Now we have seven games left and we have to win all of them or it will be over.
“I said before the game it doesn’t matter if we win or lose. Of course, it was a massive game but we know what we have to do. Seven games is a lot of games, tough games away – so do they.
“I don’t know what is going to happen if we win the Premier League but to be there for the fifth season – and I want to win the Premier League – is so good that is doesn’t matter [if we lose the title].”
On Klopp, Guardiola added: “He makes me a better manager. His teams are positive and aggressive in attack. I try to imitate him in that sense. We aren’t friends, we don’t have dinner together, I have his telephone number but I don’t call him but I have a lot of respect for him and he knows. And next Saturday I will try to beat him.”
Carragher: Liverpool showed courage
The much-hyped contest lived up to expectations with the game starting at a ferocious pace and hardly relenting.
City were the first to hit their stride with Jesus teeing up Sterling for a glorious chance inside the opening minutes – and after Jesus had re-established City’s lead, there was a period when – to use boxing parlance – Liverpool were on the ropes.
But just 47 seconds of the second half had elapsed when Salah played in his fellow forward and Mane made no mistake.
Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports: “It took more courage from Liverpool because Manchester City are such a special team technically. We’ve not seen anyone like them in our league. Every other team in the Premier League when they play Man City, they drop off and they hope for a goal on the counter-attack.
“Liverpool are the only team who try to take them on at their own game – and they’re good enough to do that.”
“The performance from Liverpool not so much in terms of quality but their mentality to come out in the second half. They’d been given the run around in the first half.
“I don’t think they did anything completely different. They didn’t change. These teams believe in what they do and rightly so. To come out in the second half and match City, maybe do better, I was so impressed with both sides today.”
Gary Neville added: “Liverpool showed guts to come back into the game as City in the first half could’ve been out of sight. They keep coming back and the best teams have that ability, character and personality trait.
“Well done to Liverpool as City were exceptional in the first half. There was quality but it was frantic at times. You could see at the end when they were bringing each other down, they were panicking a little bit thinking about the counter-attack.
“But they are exceptional teams. What I admire most about them is from a defensive point of view. I don’t know how they do it. They push high up the pitch with 10 minutes to go.
“The nerve to do that against the best in the world with the best passers and best runners is unbelievable. We’ve seen the best teams push up in the past but never like these two teams do in the game today.”
Who does the draw better suit?
Sky Sports Jamie Carragher:
“I think Jurgen Klopp will be satisfied. Before the game, obviously he’d have wanted three points but the second half showed how they got back into the game having been 2-1 down. They’ll be delighted with a point as Liverpool weren’t at the races in the first half.
“They deserve credit for how they responded.”
Sky Sports’ Micah Richards:
“City are still ahead and they can take confidence from that. If Liverpool would’ve won today it would’ve been a rough road to the end of the season but it was a great game of football between two of the best teams I’ve ever seen.
“This and the reverse fixture in November, I don’t think I’ve seen two matches with such a high quality of football. The players are breath-taking and the managers are on top of their game. Great spectacles.
“Looking at the fixtures, Liverpool have the harder run-in but Jurgen Klopp will be approaching every game one at a time. It is going to be tough no matter what. I thought City were outstanding today The levels of fitness, quality, decision making. I thought City had the better chances. In that first half, I thought City had more than Liverpool.”
Sky Sports’ Roy Keane:
“We’re in the same place as we were before! We just saw great desire and fighting spirit from both teams. All the talk before the game from the managers was that this wouldn’t be a decisive game but they both played like it was.
“It was like a final. City had the chance to win it at the end but I think a draw is a fair result.
“What impressed me about these quality players was the desire was still there to go and win the game right until the end. No team was ever going to dominate for long spells because there’s so much quality on both sides.
“Liverpool struggled to get going but in the second half, they showed their character. Klopp had a go at them at half-time and they were early out onto the pitch for the start of the season period.
“He wanted them to show their true colours and we saw that before City again some great chances. It was a great reminder of what the game is all about and why we love it. Credit to all the players.”
April 13 – Benfica (h) Champions League QF second leg
April 16/17 – Man City (Wembley) FA Cup semi-finals
April 19 – Man United (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
April 24 – Everton (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
April 26/27 – Villarreal/Bayern Munich Champions League SF first leg *
April 30 – Newcastle (a) Premier League
May 3/4 – Villarreal/Bayern Munich Champions League SF second leg *
May 7 – Tottenham (h) Premier League
May 10 – Aston Villa (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 14 – FA Cup final *
May 15 – Southampton (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 22 – Wolves (h) Premier League
May 28 – Champions League final *
* Subject to progress
To be rearranged: Wolves (a) Premier League
April 13 – Atletico Madrid (a) Champions League QF second leg
April 16 – Liverpool (Wembley) FA Cup semi-finals
April 20 – Brighton (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
April 23 – Watford (h) Premier League
April 26/27 – Chelsea/Real Madrid Champions League SF first leg *
April 30 – Leeds (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 3/4 – Chelsea/Real Madrid Champions League SF second leg *
May 8 – Newcastle (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 14 – FA Cup final *
May 15 – West Ham (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 22 – Aston Villa (h) Premier League
May 28 – Champions League final *
* Subject to progress