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Liverpool and Manchester City Leave Everyone Hungry for More

Category: Football,Sports

LIVERPOOL, England — Martin Atkinson brought his whistle to his lips and, with that slight theatrical flourish beloved of all referees, pointed his right arm at the penalty spot. For a moment — not even that — there was silence. And then, in just a couple of heartbeats, Anfield, as one, went through the five stages of grief.

First, denial: a willful refusal to believe that, in the dying minutes of the most important game of the season thus far, Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk had mistimed his challenge on Manchester City’s Leroy Sané. Next, anger: at Atkinson for having the temerity to award the shot. On the field, the players tried to bargain with him; off it, the fans groaned in despair. A few dozen, a few hundred, started to head toward the exits, accepting their fate: Manchester City would score, and win, and Liverpool would lose.

On the substitutes’ bench, Sergio Agüero, City’s regular penalty-taker, sat and watched. He had been substituted — after yet another fruitless excursion here, to this stadium where he has never scored, this place he must really hate — a few minutes earlier. His replacement, Gabriel Jesus, wanted to take the penalty; his coach, Pep Guardiola, had other ideas.

Benjamin Mendy, the left back, was deputed to go and tell Jesus to desist. Guardiola had been impressed in training by Riyad Mahrez’s dedication to improving his penalty-taking technique. He would be given the ball, the chance to claim victory, to firmly establish Manchester City as the Premier League leader. That was final.

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