EN ETIHAD TRIUNFÓ EL ESPECTÁCULO

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Manchester City y Liverpool protagonizaron el primer gran partidazo del año. Hacía mucho tiempo que la Premier League no tenía un duelo tan importante, con dos equipos que transmitan sensaciones potentes, una idea bien arraigada y capaz de imponerse ante cualquier otro grande europeo. Había mucho en juego, es decir: mucho para ganar pero también bastantes cosas que perder. Por eso ambos entrenadores tomaron recaudos. Pep Guardiola, fiel a sí mismo, apuntó a defenderse con la pelota, con posesiones largas que impidieran al Liverpool adueñarse del ritmo como suele hacer. Jurgen Klopp, el único entrenador con historial a favor ante el catalán, dejó de lado el 4-2-3-1 que usó en las últimas semanas para volver a ordenar a los suyos en un 4-3-3 que le permitió, la temporada pasada, eliminar a los citizens de la Champions League y llegar hasta la final de dicho certámen.
 
El control de los primeros minutos fue para los locales. Guardiola, además de usar la pelota y a sus interiores para presionar arriba, hizo mucho hincapié en su salida desde el fondo. A sabiendas de que Klopp presionaría con los tres puntas cerrados, el ex entrenador del Barcelona utilizó a Fernandinho -volante central-, Bernardo Silva -interior derecho- y al propio Ederson -arquero- para obtener una clara superioridad numérica. James Milner, el volante más adelantado de los Reds, dudaba entre salir por el volante portugués o tapar el pase lateral hacia Danilo. No obstante, todo ese sistema ideado por Guardiola sirvió más como resguardo defensivo que elemento desequilibrante. La balanza estaba lejos de inclinarse hacia algún lado. No era poca cosa, aún así, alejar del gol al equipo más en forma del momento, que pese a todo esto, estuvo a centímetros del gol tras una gran jugada colectiva con varios toques y el cambio de ritmo del que son capaces Mohamed Salah y Roberto Firmino.
Ante tanta paridad, no fue de extrañar que el trámite se abriera por un detalle. O por alguna individualidad. Sergio Aguero, quien junto a Leroy Sané había sido el más incisivo para mover a la defensa visitante, tiró de ingenio y técnica para anticipar a Dejan Lovren y con poco ángulo, superar la resistencia de Alisson Becker. El Kun ya estaba en un gran partido por darle continuidad a los ataques con movimientos y apoyos de crack. El gol le dio al City más confianza para sentirse dueño del trámite, pero quizás demasiada para aferrarse a aquél plan de mucha posesión y pocas llegadas. En el complemento, los de Guardiola controlaron pero se alejaron del gol, responsabilidad también del holandés Virgil van Dijk, quien juega cada partido como para ser considerado el mejor defensor del mundo en estos momentos. Por la jerarquía del rival, la ventaja se adivinaba insuficiente; así se comprobó cuando tras varios pases y cambios de frente, el lateral derecho Alexander-Arnold mandó con la pierna menos hábil un centro inmejorable para el otro lateral, Andrew Robertson -otro que anda entre los mejores en su puesto-, quien llegó con determinación e inteligencia para asistir a Firmino.

Lo que siguió fueron minutos de vértigo y control repartido. El Liverpool, que se plantó mejor tras el ingreso de Fabinho en la mitad de la cancha, puede jactarse de tener al tridente más en forma del momento. Pero el City tiene poco que envidiarLe, y lo demostró en una combinación entre Raheem Sterling, Aguero -sin tocar la pelota- y el insistente Leroy Sané, que definió de forma inmejorable, cruzado, pegado al palo más lejano de Alisson. El 2-1 llegó cuando los locales parecían menos enteros en lo físico y mental. Fernandinho y Bernardo Silva -potenciado por Pep- hicieron un gran despliegue para recuperar pero el arco quedaba demasiado lejos.
 
Klopp buscó quemar naves con los ingresos de Xherdan Shaqiri y Daniel Sturridge; sus dirigidos sí que mostraron ímpetu para acorralar al poderoso City en el tramo final del encuentro, pero entre Ederson, Kompany y Stones sostuvieron la victoria in extremis. Como en el primer tiempo, alguna pierna se cruzó centímetros antes de la línea. Guardiola, esta vez, aguanto como pudo. Eso sí: no ganó como sea. Le quitó el invicto al Liverpool y dejó para el infarto la Premier siendo muy consciente del momento de su equipo, de la jerarquía de sus piezas y de la calidad del rival.
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1994. Si no rueda una pelota me siento incompleto. Cuando sea grande diré que vi jugar a Messi. Disfruto de leer y escribir.

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