Reds manager Jurgen Klopp opted for an all-out attacking line-up at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, with in-form Diogo Jota included alongside the established front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
Liverpool, who knew victory would see them leapfrog Leicester City and Tottenham, reaped an early reward when Salah put them ahead from the spot in the 13th minute after Kyle Walker brought down Mane – but City levelled just after the half-hour when Gabriel Jesus turned superbly before slotting past Alisson.
Pep Guardiola’s side wasted a golden chance to go ahead before half-time when De Bruyne rolled his penalty wide after handball had been awarded against Joe Gomez following a lengthy video assistant referee (VAR) deliberation.
Both sides pushed for the winner but it was City who grew stronger as the game went on, Jesus sending a glorious headed chance wide to leave both sides having to settle for a point.
Liverpool will be happier with a point
Klopp did not come to the Etihad to hide behind the door – Liverpool’s attacking formation that had City on the ropes for the first 20 minutes was proof of that.
In the end, however, you suspect he will be happier with a point than Guardiola as the Reds clearly ran out of steam in a second half when the home side looked far more likely to snatch the winner.
This is a Liverpool team already missing Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara – and they also lost Trent Alexander-Arnold in the second half – but they still came to a formidable opponent and refused to be beaten.
Even on the back foot, the reigning champions carry an unmistakeable air of menace in the shape of those attackers – particularly Salah and Mane, who were always on the prowl.
Liverpool, uncharacteristically, grew sloppier in possession as the game went on, but they still managed to limit City’s opportunities.
Klopp will never be fully content with a point but he will surely still be satisfied because his team showed real defensive resilience, apart from that moment in the second period when Jesus slipped the shackled and headed Ferran Torres’ cross wide.
Liverpool are in third place in the Premier League, a point behind Leicester – and meet the Foxes at Anfield after the international break.
Man City will still be eyeing title
At first glance, the sight of Manchester City in 11th place in the Premier League with 12 points from seven games might represent a disappointing return for a team that has set such high standards in recent years.
Yes, it could have been much better and Guardiola is likely to have been disappointed not to fashion victory against a Liverpool side most will regard as their closest challengers.
In reality, though, City and Guardiola can look at the bigger picture and believe they are right in what is shaping up as the most open title race for years.
A clutch of clubs will fancy this could be their year and City are only five points behind Liverpool, and six behind leaders Leicester, with a game in hand.
Guardiola’s new central defensive partnership of Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias is settling, and he will no doubt hope forward Sergio Aguero can finally shake off the injury problems that have dogged him in recent months.
This is shaping up as a topsy-turvy title race – and Manchester City have every right to feel they will be right in it.
‘Five subs are key’ – what they said
Manchester City boss Guardiola speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “It was a tight game. We struggled in the first minutes because they had four players up front. Mane and Salah were playing between the lines, then we adjusted after and had more control.
“The way they played and the way we behaved in response was incredible. I’m so proud of my players. The difference today was they got a penalty and we missed a penalty.”
What he said to Liverpool counterpart Klopp after the final whistle: “We talked about five substitutions. If people want to give microphones so we can give our opinions…
“English player, right-back is injured. There are many guys with many, many cases. Around the world, five subs are key, but here it’s totally the opposite. We’ve talked about this many times.”
Klopp, speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “It was an interesting game – a lot of tactical stuff on the pitch. Both teams played with an incredible energy level to close the other team down and use the few opportunities. I thought it was a top, top, top game.
“The plan is always to start fast, stay fast and finish fast – but that is not always possible. City are a top team.
“I think it is the game with the lowest number of chances for City so far when we have played them – clear-cut chances. They didn’t have many and that is a proper compliment for the boys.”
Walker paying the penalty – the best stats
- Manchester City have drawn three of their past five games in the Premier League, as many as their previous 70 matches in the competition.
- Liverpool have only won three of their past 10 away games in the league, after winning 16 of their previous 17.
- After a run of 35 consecutive Premier League wins when scoring first between February 2019 and July 2020, the Reds have now failed to win four of their past seven such games.
- Salah has scored eight league goals for Liverpool this season. No Reds player has ever scored more in the first eight matches of a campaign in the competition (level with Fernando Torres in 2009-10 and Robbie Fowler in 1995-96).
- City defender Walker has conceded two penalties in the league this season, as many as he had in the previous 11 campaigns combined.
- Jesus’ equaliser featured the most passes (19) in the build-up to a Premier League goal against Liverpool since September 2017 – also a goal by since at the Etihad.
- De Bruyne has been directly involved in six goals in eight Premier League games against Klopp’s Liverpool (one goal and five assists). Only Leicester’s Jamie Vardy (seven) has had a hand in more against Liverpool in the competition since the German took charge.
- De Bruyne’s penalty was the first to miss the target in a Premier League game since October 2018 – when Riyad Mahrez smashed the ball over the bar in the reverse fixture at Anfield.
After the international break, Manchester City travel to north London to face Tottenham in the Premier League on Saturday, 21 November (17:30 GMT).
Liverpool host Leicester on the same day at 15:00.