Sunday 4 August saw followers of domestic football edge back to normality. The Scottish Premiership gave us two exciting encounters, Rangers beating Kilmarnock at Rugby Park thanks to a last-minute goal and Aberdeen edging Hearts by the odd one in a five-goal thriller at Pittodrie. In the English Championship Leeds United got off to the perfect start with a convincing 3-1 win away to Bristol Rovers, strengthening their claims as early contenders for promotion.
Each of those matches proved to be a thrilling watch for armchair fans but there was no doubting game of the day. The 2019 renewal of the world-famous Community Shield was played out between Premier League champions Manchester City and Champions League winners Liverpool at Wembley. Dubbed a friendly match, it was anything but. Over 77,000 supporters packed the national stadium, creating a special atmosphere and the players certainly rose to the occasion.
Sunday Was Another Tense Affair
Previous versions of the Community Shield have been tense affairs with the majority of recent outings finishing with one or less goals between the sides. That was flagged up in our pre-match preview, suggesting punters should invest their stake money on another nip and tuck affair. That proved to be a shrewd prediction as Sunday’s match fell into the trends.
Manchester City were priced up as red hot favourites with all major betting firms to win the match in 90 minutes, Liverpool written off as a side merely there to make up the numbers. Going against Jurgen Klopp’s side is never a wise stance and it’s not often betting traders offer big odds on The Reds. They did that day and that convinced backers to flood to support the underdogs. Smart punters understood just how closely matched these teams were and saw the value in taking a punt on Liverpool at nice odds rather than supporting Manchester City at odds-on.
This game was, on paper, much closer to a 50/50 pick-em contest and in those circumstances it’s always worth going with the bigger price before sitting back and enjoying the show, happy in the knowledge you have the value working in your favour. The game looked a 50/50 on paper and things certainly played out that way. It was understandable to see the money men throw the weight of their support behind the Premier League champions, but Liverpool are a confident bunch on the back of that Champions League win.
They finished second in Europe behind Real Madrid last year, beat Tottenham in the final this year and ended a close second behind Man City in the Premier League. Reds fans are now hopeful their side can end the painful wait for domestic success and win the league this year, putting an end to The Cityzens hopes of bagging three league championship titles on the bounce. The Premier League betting has Liverpool second-favourites behind Man City but there was very little in it last time, The Reds losing fewer times than their opponents but drawing more games. The latter proved to be their undoing and if they can turn one point into three a few times this season they will have every chance of finishing on the top step come spring 2020 at the conclusion of the 38-game season.
Both Managers go With Strong Line Ups
Both managers gave fans the game they deserved by fielding strong teams, giving this match their full attention. The Liverpool starting 11 was made up of Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Henderson, Salah, Origi and Firmino. On the bench, Klopp had Lovren, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana, Mignolet, Shaqiri and Matip. Opposite number Pep Guardiola went with Bravo, Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko, De Bruyne, Rodri, Silva, Bernard Silva, Sterling and Sane. That line-up was boosted by substitutes Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus, Aguero, Angelino, Ederson, Foden and Garcia.
It was Manchester City who started the stronger of the two at Wembley, as was expected, and it took them less than 12 minutes to get their noses in front. Raheem Sterling broke the deadlock early in the first half. That was the first time the in-form England striker has scored past his previous employers. The attacker reacted quickest to a David Silva flick, turning it past Allison and that sparked wild celebrations amongst the blues support. It was a goal they deserved too and one Liverpool could have no real complaints about as it came from a stunning piece of play that was deserving of a goal at any level.
Liverpool followers feared the worst from there. No team in world football are good enough to give Man City encouragement and a one-goal lead only added to their confidence. It was thought the pre-match favourites would open up from there, gaining a bigger advantage and making a bit of a mockery of what was expected to be a competitive contest. That didn’t happen. Liverpool must be given credit for how they reacted to going behind. The team regrouped, Klopp got his message across to the players and they worked hard to keep the scores at 1-0.
That’s how the first half finished and for most of the second period Manchester City kept their lead. That was until the 77th minute when Matip finally took one of Liverpool’s many chances. The woodwork was struck three times in the second half as Man City battled to put the game to bed while Liverpool rolled up their sleeves and pushed for an equaliser. It was the latter that came good, Joel Matip heading the ball into the net after Dutch defender, once on the books of Scottish champions Celtic, picked his teammate out with a cross.
Virgil van Dijk may be more accustomed to cutting out crosses, but he delivered that one for the equaliser like a seasoned winger and was just another example of why he’s seen as one of the best players in the world today. Liverpool paid big money to beat off the competition and sign van Dijk, but they have been paid back in top performances in some of football’s biggest competitions.
Game Goes to Penalties
Due to this match coming very early in the season any draw after 90 minutes doesn’t go to extra-time but, instead, directly to penalties. That’s what happened on Sunday, with Man City and Liverpool deciding the match with spot kicks. It’s a shoot-out of five penalties each, the winner being the club that holds their nerve under pressure. Manchester City won the shoot-out by the tightest of margins, the final score being 5-4. The victors converted each of their penalties, but Liverpool paid the price for Georginio Wijnaldum’s penalty being saved by man of the match Claudio Bravo. That was the difference on a tight afternoon that proved there’s nothing between these sides in terms of quality and we are set for another interesting season.
Both managers spoke to the press at the conclusion of the afternoon. Victorious boss Pep Guardiola, himself no stranger to winning football prizes, called it an incredible final for both sides and one he enjoyed being part of. He was honest enough to admit neither team dominated enough to deserve the win in 90 minutes and penalties was the right result. Pep, looking ahead to the season to come, added he didn’t know what was going to happen this season as the league is as strong as it has ever been. He even expected rivals Manchester United to improve and return as a force.
Across to Jurgen Klopp and he too was full of praise for an exciting final. The Champions League winning manager told members of the sporting press both teams had a similar pre-season and the game seemed to throw up more questions than answers as to where both teams are at with their preparation. Klopp was proud of how his team performed, especially in the second half when they grabbed a deserved equaliser and had chances to win the match. Liverpool were made to rue missed opportunities and the fact that was their downfall last season may just give fans reason to worry about the year ahead. Man City have improved, meaning Liverpool must too. Turning draws into wins will be the difference between gold and silver again this season but there’s no reason to write off Liverpool just yet. They held a fantastic rival to a draw and with a bit more composure and match sharpness they would’ve won the game in normal time.
The result threw up some interesting stats that may be worth keeping in mind when this match comes back around this season. Man City’s win means they are the first team to retain the trophy since Arsenal did in 2015 and that was also their sixth winner’s medal. The Cityzens are also the first team to win the prize on the back of a season that saw them claim Premier League and FA Cup glory. Gabriel Jesus was the first player to dribble past Virgil van Dijk since March 2018.