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Man City and Liverpool's Christmas cracker! Winners and losers as Haaland & De Bruyne punish Nunez's profligacy

22:26 GMT 22/12/2022
Haaland Nunez De Bruyne Klopp Man City Liverpool 2022-23 GFX
Manchester City knocked defending champions Liverpool out of the Carabao Cup but James Milner's injury will be of greater concern to Jurgen Klopp.

Never mind the World Cup, the Carabao Cup is where it's really at.

After a break of 40 days, domestic football returned with a bang at the Etihad Stadium, as Manchester City edged out Liverpool, their great rivals, 3-2 to secure a spot in the quarter-finals.

Nathan Ake's header tipped a thrilling contest the way of Pep Guardiola's men, on a night when Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne all shone.

Haaland fired City into an early lead with his 24th goal of the season, only for Fabio Carvalho to draw Liverpool level.

Riyad Mahrez restored the home side's advantage early in the second half, but Salah equalised within a minute for 2-2.

City, though, would have the final say, De Bruyne picking out Ake to secure a rousing win for the Premier League champions, although the Reds were left to rue a trio of missed chances from Darwin Nunez, as their defence of the trophy came to an end.

Here, GOAL runs through the winners and losers from a pulsating night in Manchester...

  • Erling Haaland Manchester City Liverpool League Cup 2022-23

    Winner: Erling Haaland

    It’s terrible when you come back rusty after a break, isn’t it?

    It didn’t take long for City’s main man to pick up where he left off prior to the World Cup. Less than 10 minutes, in fact, as Haaland collected his 24th goal of a remarkable campaign in familiarly clinical fashion to open the scoring.

    You’ve seen this goal before, I’m sure. A bit of space for De Bruyne out wide and a dangerous delivery, a bit of front-post movement from Haaland and a devastatingly effective finish, as the visiting defenders stand and wonder how it all happened.

    If the hope from City’s rivals was that the mid-season pause might check some of their No.9’s momentum, then it looks like it was misplaced. Haaland’s first chance here arrived inside 20 seconds, and though he skewed that one wildly off target, it was no surprise to see him on the scoresheet soon after. 

    It was more surprising when Nat Phillips, a first-half substitute for Liverpool, stopped his advances with a supremely-timed tackle before half-time, but then you can’t score every chance. 

    It’s just that Haaland makes you feel as though he might…

  • James Milner Manchester City Liverpool League Cup 2022-23

    Loser: James Milner

    Club football is back, and so are Liverpool’s injury woes.

    Less than 45 minutes into the Reds’ return to action, Jurgen Klopp was grinding his teeth and looking to the heavens. Down was James Milner, captain for the night and his makeshift right-back. Not another one, surely?

    Yes, another one. Liverpool, already without Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Arthur Melo and Curtis Jones, had lost Roberto Firmino to a calf issue suffered in training on Tuesday too. Not that serious, said club sources. Serious enough at this time of year, pointed out Klopp.

    This just looks a fragile squad, and a fragile squad is the last thing Liverpool need when they are already playing catch up after a poor start to the season. However talented their young players are, they need their senior men to stay fit.

    Here, they lost the most senior of them all. Still, at least Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are back.

    For now.

  • Nathan Ake Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City Liverpool League Cup 2022-23

    Winner: Kevin De Bruyne

    He might have flopped in Qatar, but stick a sky blue shirt on him and there are few who can touch City’s creator-in-chief.

    De Bruyne, as ever, was instrumental in everything good that Pep Guardiola’s side did here. It was his cross that set up the opening goal for Haaland, and an even better delivery from the left which allowed Ake to settle the game once and for all at the back post.

    He really is some player, some sight in full flow. His ability to find space, usually on the right, is unmatched, and the way he strides with the ball through midfield leaves opponents terrified, for they know he will invariably, and inevitably, find the right pass when he does.

    He did so here. Twice. For City, it was enough to secure them the win.

  • Darwin Nunez Liverpool Manchester City League Cup 2022-23

    Loser: Darwin Nunez

    On another night, Nunez would have been the hero, but you have to take your chances in a game like this, against opponents like this, and unfortunately for Liverpool, their big-money summer signing failed to do so here.

    The Uruguayan finished with an assist, and a fine one at that for Mo Salah, but he should really have had a hat-trick. Once, twice, three times he found himself in front of goal, just to the right. Once, twice, three times he failed to hit the target, dragging his effort wide of the far post.

    At 23, it’s hard to fault Nunez in most areas of his game. His movement and anticipation is first-class, and he works as hard as just about any centre-forward in the business. He is strong, quick and continuously gets himself into scoring positions.

    And in fairness, before the World Cup he was starting to capitalise on those positions. He had seven goals in 10 games prior to the break, but he drew a blank here. 

    It wasn’t for the want of trying, but it was costly, as far as Liverpool were concerned.

  • Winner: Club football

    If the rest of the season is going to be anything like this, then the World Cup will soon be a distant memory.

    We’ve all been thrilled by what we saw – on the pitch at least – in Qatar, but this is what we really live for, right? The world’s top clubs, the world’s top players, the world’s top managers, going at it hammer and tong, as if nothing else could ever matter more.

    Both Guardiola and Klopp would, one imagines, have preferred a quieter return to action than this one, after nearly six weeks out of action, but nobody watching was complaining as, from the first whistle to the last, City and Liverpool tore into each other, renewing a rivalry that has exploded in recent years, and providing a hell of a spectacle in the process.

    It was thrilling stuff, end-to-end and with no real let-up in intensity. City had the edge, you felt, but every time they threatened to run away, back came Liverpool. Had Nunez had his shooting boots with him, Klopp’s side might have pinched it.

    As it is, their reign as Carabao Cup holders is over. City, winners in four of the last five seasons, will fancy another trip to Wembley this time around.

    The rest of us? Well, we’re just glad to have the proper football back, right?

  • Riyad Mahrez Manchester City Liverpool League Cup 2022-23

    Loser: Defence

    This was certainly not the night to be a centre-back, a full-back or a holding midfielder.

    While the big guns – Haaland, De Bruyne, Salah – roared back into action, those at the back looked bewildered at times, their heads spinning at the sheer pace of what was unfolding around them.

    Within the first minute, Liverpool’s backline had been caught out by a simple pass and a Haaland run. A minute later, City were stretched as Nunez raced through towards goal.

    Joe Gomez, who started at centre-back and moved to right-back, was found wanting as Haaland made it 1-0, but City were then pulled apart by Joel Matip’s pass, James Milner’s cross and Fabio Carvalho’s cool finish. 

    Andy Robertson was next to suffer, done all ends up by Riyad Mahrez’s brilliant touch and finish, but poor Aymeric Laporte wasn’t far behind, outstripped by Nunez as Salah was given a tap-in.

    Still, Liverpool couldn’t hold on, De Bruyne’s cross just too high for Nat Phillips, allowing Ake to finish it off.

    A fitting conclusion, you could say, although both teams could and should have scored more. As it was, five goals will do.

    Both managers know there is work to do on the training pitch before the league season resumes on Boxing Day. Solid and steady this was not.