Manchester City and Liverpool signaled their intentions for the upcoming Barclays Premier League season in a 2-2 draw in the International Champions Cup — which Liverpool ultimately won 3-1 in the penalty shootout — in a spirited game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night. Stevan Jovetic got both goals for City, while Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling got Liverpool’s regular time tallies.
Both teams are expected to be serious contenders this season, as they were last year, when City just beat out the Reds at the finish line. But whereas Liverpool are a team building — and to an extent rebuilding after the departure of top scorer Luis Suarez — City are the side already built.
And that much was apparent, in the baseball facility packed with 49,653 fans, which overwhelmingly colored the red of Liverpool. The Reds, like they have all preseason, had trouble connecting in the final third. City, meanwhile, continued to produce chances as if they were rolling them off an assembly line.
Gael Clichy got a weak and ill-advised shot off early for the Citizens, but that only foretold greater chances to come. A few minutes later, Jovetic combined splendidly with Edin Dzeko to get into the box but he left the ball behind and took a tumble, for which he got no call.
Liverpool showed some life then. In the 10th minute, Philippe Coutinho slid a shot just wide. And then Henderson dropped a lovely cross on Ricky Lambert’s head, but he nodded his header into the chest of goalkeeper Willy Caballero from up close.
In the weird series of plays that followed, Dzeko ran at Liverpool’s goal, took a heavy touch and then a theatrical tumble but got no call. But Liverpool turned the ball over immediately. And no sooner had Dzeko gotten up or he was played through and scored, only to be deemed offside on a very tight call.
Joe Hart, the England number one who came on at halftime to make his preseason debut, made a pair of strong saves for City wedged around their opener. He denied Jack Robinson, played in well by Daniel Sturridge, from point blank range and then did the same to Coutinho. But in between those plays, the excellent Jesus Navas saw his cross deflected by a defender and poked behind Simon Mignolet by Jovetic in the 53rd minute. Liverpool was spared a penalty when Robinson stuck his arm high over his head to block a Jovetic chip in the box not much later.
Spared a doubled deficit, Liverpool went on to equalize in the 59th minute. Sterling played Sturridge into space, but the striker was pushed off the ball. Henderson was right there though, ready to sweep it past Hart on a fine finish.
City then seemed to take control. Jovetic sent through Aleksandar Kolarov on the left, whose square ball for Bruno Zuculini was dinked off the bar. But not much later, in the 68th minute, Navas cut a pass back for Kelechi Iheanacho. The 17-year-old Nigerian’s shot was slowed en route but set up well for Jovetic, who stabbed in his second of the night.
Liverpool equalized again in the 85th minute, as Sturridge whipped in a cross which was settled for Sterling by Lucas. The little winger took a touch, accelerated into the box and pinged his finish off the inside of the far post to make it 2-2. He seemed to have scored the 3-2 as well, off a splendid finish on a through ball, but he was very wrongly called offside.
In the shootout, only Iheanacho managed to score of City’s four penalty-takers, as Kolarov blasted his effort over and Yaya Toure and Navas’s efforts were stopped by Mignolet. Liverpool scored three of four — the decider coming off Lucas’s foot — and took the game.
It is, of course, still only the preseason, but if this game is to serve as a harbinger, these sides are going to make it tight again this year.