KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY —- First blow to Manchester City. But it was close. The English champions edged Liverpool’s European champions 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to win the season-opening FA Community Shield for the sixth time in their history and the second year in succession.
But Liverpool will take great encouragement for their own display. With a little more luck they could have been celebrating their own 16th shield.
Liverpool ‘old boy’ Rahem Sterling had shot fast-starting City into an 11th-minute lead which they deserved to hold to half-time. Liverpool were far superior after the interval as they awoke from their pre-season slumber and eventually claimed a late equaliser through Joel Matip.
On another day Mo Salah would have had a hat-trick. As it was, all he could celebrate was in scoring from his own penalty in the shootout. Unfortunately it was Liverpool’s last. Claudio Bravo had already saved from Gini Wijnaldum. That left Gabriel Jesus, a substitute for injured Leroy Sane, free to strike the winner.
City were even down to 10 men at the of the goal, after only 11 minutes, when Leroy Sane, who had started for City amid continuing speculation over his future, off the pitch injured after a clash with Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The domestic treble-winners made much the sharper start against a Liverpool team whose pre-season had brought only one win in seven games.
Both clubs had been forced to wait until last week to bring their squads back up to full strength after their late holiday-makers returned following duties in the UEFA Nations League, Copa America and African Cup of Nations.
Yet Liverpool’s concern not to concede any psychological advantage was evidenced in the presence of nine of their Madrid starters in their line-up: only Joel Matip and Sadio Mane were missing.
City rested veteran midfielder anchor Fernandinho after his Copa America exertions. This provided Guardiola with the chance to start Rodrigo Hernandez. The £62m new arrival from Atletico Madrid is expected to be the Brazilian’s successor.
It took City only 11 minutes to take the lead at a time when they were down to 10 men after Sane had been injured in a clash with Trent Alexander-Arnold. Substitute Gabriel Jesus had not yet taken his place when Kyle Walker, Oleksandr Zinchenko and David Silva opened up the Liverpool defence for Raheem Sterling to score against his old club.
Minutes later City could have been two goals to the good but this time Alisson saved safely from Sterling.
Liverpool were being outplayed in midfield but Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino found occasional space on the counter-attack. Salah, once into the City penalty box, was out of luck with three half-chances. One of his efforts clipped the outside of Claudio Bravo’s left-hand post.
As the game sparked to life so Kevin de Bruyne was booked for a foul on Divock Origi. Then Guardiola was shown a yellow card – under the latest law changes – for protesting vehemently that Gomez also deserved a booking for a foul on David Silva.
City concentrated more on their possession game in the early stages of the second half but Liverpool soon hurried them out of their stride.
Origi wasted one opportunity then Virgil Van Dijk hit the bar. His shot bounced down on the line and the Dutchman and his team-mates claimed a goal. However referee Martin Atkinson, informed by goal-line technology at the ‘Wembley goal’ end, waved play on. Moments later Salah hit Bravo’s left-hand post.
City could have taken advantage but Sterling failed again on the counter-attack. This time he could not decide whether to shoot or pass to Walker and Alisson saved at his feet. The mistake proved fatal. In the 77th minute Matip, on for Alexander-Arnold, headed a well-deserved equaliser.
Liverpool had enjoyed more than 70pc of possession since the interval and sought to capitalise in the closing minutes. Bravo saved well from Keita then Salah had a shot deflected over the bar for a corner and saw another two efforts saved by the goalkeeper. They should have won it too. Only a remarkable goal-line clearance by Walker from Salah in stoppage time took the match to penalties.
Liverpool: Alisson – Alexander-Arnold (Matip 67), Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson – Wijnaldum, Fabinho (Keita 67), Henderson (Lallana 77) – Salah, Firmino (Shaqiri 77), Origi (Oxlade-Chamberlain 77). Manager: Klopp.
Man. City: Bravo – Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko – Rodrigo – Bernardo Silva, de Bruyne (Foden 88), David Silva (Gundogan 61) – Sterling, Sane (Gabriel Jesus 12). Manager: Guardiola.
Ref: Atkinson. Att: 77 565.
Penalties (Liverpool first): Shaqiri 1-0, Gundogan 1-1; Wijnaldum saved 1-1, B Silva 1-2; Lallana 2-2, Foden 2-3; Oxlade-Chamberlain 3-3, Zinchenko 3-4; Salah 4-4, Gabriel Jesus 4-5.