LONDON In a match expected to showcase the best of slick, ball-on-the-ground possession football, Liverpool's clash with Manchester City on Sunday was decided by that most traditional of approaches - a simple cross and a thumping header.
In a game of few chances, Georginio Wijnaldum's superb goal in the eighth minute stood out on every level.
A typically incisive Liverpool counter-attack sent Adam Lallana clear on the left and when he curled in a tempting cross Wijnaldum soared above Aleksander Kolarov to power in a header of Nat Lofthouse proportions.
It was all the more impressive for the Dutchman measuring in at 5ft 9ins (1.75cm), though his childhood obsession with gymnastics has clearly instilled a terrific spring.
"I scored a lot of headers at my previous clubs," Wijnaldum told Liverpoolfc.com.
"Maybe it’s a surprise to everyone because I’m not tall. Adam Lallana crossed the ball and I made the header...it was a good goal.
“Adam can shoot or cross with both feet, that’s not a problem for him. It was a good header."
Wijnaldum was made man of the match on the strength of his goal but he also put in a terrific shift as the Liverpool midfield worked tirelessly to close down City and limit their time on the ball.
The result was a comfortable afternoon for goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and a third clean sheet in four games.
"That was really important because they have a lot of players who can play well between the lines – David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne," said Wijnaldum, who is settling well into the side after his 23 million pounds signing from Newcastle pre-season.
"That made it difficult for us, because we wanted to play our way and we wanted to press, but sometimes they were playing with four midfielders and sometimes even five if (Sergio) Aguero came to the ball. That’s why it was so difficult to press."
On the few occasions City did find a way through, impressive central defensive duo Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren invariably mopped up the danger.
"For me, they were the Man of the Match, because they stopped Aguero being dangerous in front of goal," he said.
"They stopped a world-class player from scoring and every game they have to fight with a lot of good strikers and they do it well."
(Editing by Stephen Powell)