Mohamed Salah did convert a 13th-minute spot-kick as the reigning Premier League champions struck the first blow in the heavyweight top-flight tussle, putting them on course to sit top of the table during November’s international break.
City, however, weathered the early storm amid the Manchester downpours before countering impressively through Gabriel Jesus, his sixth goal in his past seven league outings.
They could have scored again before half-time had the usually reliable De Bruyne not failed to convert from 12 yards out, the Belgian missing the target completely after another penalty was awarded for handball.
The majority of the pre-match focus had been on Jurgen Klopp’s team selection, though the German solved the selection poser involving Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino by picking both, seemingly deciding attack to be the best form of defence for his team following previous results in this fixture.
The bold approach reaped an early reward, albeit one gifted to them by Kyle Walker’s ill-timed lunge on Sadio Mane. Salah duly slotted home from the spot for his eighth league goal of the season.
Aggrieved following a potential foul on Raheem Sterling at the other end prior to the opener, City took their time to get to grips with Liverpool’s attacking system.
De Bruyne’s ability to find a pocket of space allowed him to set up the equaliser for Jesus, the Brazilian’s turn deceiving Trent Alexander-Arnold and allowing him to poke the ball beyond Alisson.
City had the chance to take the lead before the break. Joe Gomez was punished when a cross struck his outstretched arm, only for De Bruyne to uncharacteristically drag wide.
Jesus spurned a glorious opportunity of his own, heading Joao Cancelo’s inviting cross wide, during a second half that saw a more considered approach from both sets of players.
Liverpool faded as an attacking threat as the minutes ticked by, not aided by the loss of Alexander-Arnold to injury, but avoided suffering any late knockout blow, thereby maintaining the five-point gap between themselves and City.
What does it mean? Early intent disappears in second half
The battle between the champions and the team they dethroned did not disappoint during the opening half, not even the incessant Manchester rain putting a dampener on proceedings. Klopp said before kick-off it “made sense” to go with Jota and Firmino – a bold approach that worked early on – but withdrew the latter before the hour.
Jota stayed on for the full game and his 50th-minute attempt, saved easily by Ederson, was the last on target by either side, while City’s final tally of seven shots was their lowest in a home league game since February 2010.
Matip makes a difference
No Liverpool player made more clearances, tackles or interceptions than Joel Matip, who returned from injury in time to partner Gomez in the heart of Liverpool’s defence. The Reds are now unbeaten in 32 league games when the centre-back has started, last losing back in January 2018.
City fail to hit the spot
De Bruyne’s penalty attempt was the first in the Premier League to completely miss the target since October 2018, when Riyad Mahrez blazed over at Anfield. The Belgian had four off-target shots in the match, while his pass completion rate of 76 per cent was better than only Ferran Torres for the hosts.
Key Opta facts
– City have drawn three of their last five games in the Premier League (W2), as many as their previous 70 matches in the competition beforehand.
– Liverpool have only won three of their last 10 away games in the league (D3 L4), after winning 16 of their 17 league games on the road prior to this (D1).
– Gabriel Jesus’ equaliser featured the most passes (19) in the build-up to a Premier League goal against Liverpool since September 2017.
– Kevin De Bruyne has been directly involved in six goals in eight Premier League games against Klopp’s Liverpool. Only Jamie Vardy (seven) has had a hand in more against Liverpool in the competition since the German took charge.
– Kyle Walker has conceded two penalties in the Premier League this season, as many as he had in his previous 11 seasons in the competition combined (two).
Both managers will hope for a clean bill of health from their players away on international duty before the domestic season resumes. City head to Tottenham on November 21, that game kicking off not long after Liverpool have hosted Leicester City at Anfield.