Manchester City’s match with Liverpool on Sunday was a ferocious battle on the pitch but at full time there was nothing but respect for one another.
With the title on the line and only seven games remaining, the players and managers of both clubs could have been forgiven for letting their emotions spill over during and after the 2-2 draw, something seen plenty of times before when title rivals have gone head to head.
But there was mutual appreciation from both sets of players and a sense they had competed in a match of the highest quality.
After a pulsating 90 minutes which had everything – goals, VAR decisions, crunching tackles and an ever-changing narrative – players and managers embraced each other.
The Brazilian contingent of City’s Gabriel Jesus and Ederson and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, Fabinho and Alisson were huddled together at full-time, discussing the outcome.
City boss Pep Guardiola clasped hands with his counterpart Jurgen Klopp before hugging, while Kevin de Bruyne was quick to highlight the quality of their opponents in his post-match interviews.
“A lot of the players know each other because they live in similar areas. My kids go to school with lots of theirs and are friends with them,” De Bruyne told BBC Sport afterwards.
“Private is private, but once we are on the pitch everyone gives their all for the team. I think that’s the way it should be. You don’t have to fight all the time. We battle on the pitch and that is it.”
The two have met 23 times in total – a rivalry which previously began in the Bundesliga when Klopp was at Borussia Dortmund and Guardiola was in charge of Bayern Munich.
“Two heavyweights, chomping at each other. It’s crazy the intensity. It was a proper football game.