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Alan Brazil: Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp lost the battle but he will win the war

Manchester City’s stars celebrate Thursday night’s win as Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren suffers (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Manchester City’s stars celebrate Thursday night’s win as Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren suffers (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

TITLE races are won by those who stay cool under pressure.

Pep Guardiola has built his career on keeping his head while everyone around him is losing theirs.

Jurgen Klopp is making a decent fist of doing the same thing.

Yet the Liverpool boss has been accused by critics of blinking first as his table-topping side stared City down in midweek.

I’m sorry, but I’m not having that at all.

For me, that was the best game I’ve watched in a very long time – because both teams did what they do best.

The Reds went to the Etihad unbeaten.

They arrived full of confidence, knowing a win would give them a 10-point cushion at the top of the Premier League.

But in City they found themselves up against a team with the fitness, the game plan and the ability to go toe-to-toe with them.

Simply put, I watched two of the best teams in Europe have a right go at each other for 90 minutes – and I loved it.

Even so, some miserable gits have accused Liverpool’s gaffer of bottling it with his team selection.

Why? Because they don’t understand the game!

Since their campaign kicked off, Klopp’s side have been an attacking machine.

Their strength at the back has given them license to go gung-ho against all comers.

That’s what people wanted to see from them at the Etihad.

So when Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho were benched from the side that thumped Arsenal 5-1 five days before, the critics pointed their fingers.

In came Jordan Henderson and James Milner – and both are fantastic players.

But the boo boys questioned whether either of them have Shaqiri’s magic or Fabinho’s killer ball?

As far as I’m concerned, those dafties are barking up the wrong tree.

What happened was that Jurgen Klopp looked at the game and knew it was going to be a high-tempo, high-pressing affair from start to finish and adjusted his team accordingly.

As good a player as Shaqiri is, he’s no workhorse.

Just ask his old Stoke City team-mate, Charlie Adam, who saw Shaqiri stroll around as the Potters battled relegation.

In came two absolute grafters in Henderson and Milner – and it almost paid off.

Liverpool were excellent, but they were picked off twice by a City side that, to be fair, played fantastically well on the night.

When you really break down the Reds’ defeat, it was a game of very fine margins.

Typically, the officials played their part again.

Goal-line technology ruled out what might otherwise have been awarded as a Liverpool goal when John Stones cleared off the line.

And if VAR was available in the Premier League, they might have found themselves playing against 10 men.

Vincent Kompany’s tackle on Mohamed Salah was a shocker in my opinion.

The City captain was out of control, with both feet off the ground, and that’s a red card by the letter of the law.

Had Kompany walked, there would almost certainly have been a different outcome.

So, while Liverpool lost the battle against City, I still think they can win the war.

It won’t be easy – especially with Manchester United on the up.

But the title race is very much on.

And after a sizzling 2018, who stays coolest in 2019 remains to be seen.