Erling Haaland missed a penalty. Virgil van Dijk was shown a straight red card. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker made sloppy defensive errors leading to goals.
Manchester City and Liverpool delivered performances rife with errors from their star names in the Premier League on Sunday.
Late winners ensured they didn’t prove costly.
City is the only team to win its opening three matches after beating Sheffield United 2-1, but only because of an 88th-minute goal from Rodri that spared the blushes of Haaland and Walker.
Haaland struck a first-half penalty against the post and squandered a slew of other chances in an unusually profligate display from the leading scorer in the league last season.
He finally found the net — doesn’t he always? — in the 63rd to put City ahead but then it was Walker’s time to mess up, when he attempted a backheel in his own area and gave up possession from which Sheffield United equalized.
Rodri, the scorer of City’s winner in the Champions League final in June, came up with another timely goal to continue the champions’ 100% start to their title defense.
Liverpool left it even later, with substitute Darwin Nunez scoring the second of his goals in the third minute of stoppage time to earn a 2-1 win at Newcastle that came in spite of a woeful defensive display by the Reds in the first half at St. James’ Park.
After getting booked in the sixth minute and then escaping a sending-off for a cynical foul soon after, Alexander-Arnold completed a hat trick of mistakes by letting Mohamed Salah’s backward pass slip under his boot. That set free Anthony Gordon unchallenged and he slotted a finish between Alisson Becker’s legs in the 25th.
Then, three minutes later, the usually unflappable Van Dijk made a rash tackle — as the last man — on Alexander Isak that earned him a straight red card, seemingly ending any realistic hopes of Liverpool avoiding defeat.
However, Nunez took advantage of more uncertain defending, this time from Sven Botman as he failed to deal with a through-ball, to equalize in the 81st.
The Uruguay striker then ran onto a pass from Salah to convert an almost-replica finish and secure an unlikely triumph.
Newcastle, which will play in the Champions League this season, has only won one of its first three games, though the Saudi-controlled northeast team has had a tough start against Aston Villa, Man City and Liverpool.
Villa was thrashed 5-1 by Newcastle in the opening round but has bounced back with two wins, the latest coming at Burnley 3-1 on Sunday.
Matty Cash, a right back, scored Villa’s first two goals and Moussa Diaby added the third.
FOR THE AGES
Alexander-Arnold called it “something for the ages.” He was talking about Liverpool’s comeback at one of the toughest grounds for visiting teams but he could easily have been referencing the display of his goalkeeper.
Alisson made seven saves against Newcastle and none was better than the one where the Brazilian dived to his left and showed amazing reflexes to turn a fierce strike from Miguel Almiron onto the underside of the crossbar.
Liverpool has finished its last two games with 10 men — Alexis Mac Allister was red-carded in the 3-1 win against Bournemouth last weekend, only for it to get rescinded — but taken three points both times.
Van Dijk’s sending-off for fouling Isak as the last man is unlikely to be overturned.
“We showed how good we can be with 10 men,” Alisson said. “We have to take that now forward and do it with 11 players, keep that high level, focus and really believe we can do something this season.”
City manager Pep Guardiola missed the win at Sheffield United while he recovers in Barcelona after a back operation.
The end of the game would have made uncomfortable viewing for Guardiola, especially Walker’s choice to backheel the ball into play instead of making a simple clearance.
Guardiola’s assistant, Juanma Lillo, filled in as caretaker manager at Bramall Lane and said he didn’t enjoy the experience.
“Not at all. I much prefer being with Pep,” Lillo said. “Especially when it’s a question of health, I don’t enjoy this at all. We miss his presence now more than ever.
“I haven’t spoken to him after the match. During the match, I spoke to him at some moments but generally he was speaking to the other members of the technical staff. But he’s been totally present today.”
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
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