Liverpool 1-4 Manchester City
As Premier League statements of intent go, this was as emphatic as it comes.
Yes, Manchester City were indebted to the errors of an opposing goalkeeper; yes, they were also helped by the absence of their opponents’ first-choice central defenders; but as scorelines go, this was as one-sided as the title race now threatens to be.
What’s more, it’s easy to forget City were also without their most talented midfielder and attacker in footballer of the year Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero.
Amidst plenty of Premier League highlights for Pep Guardiola’s men, they could even afford to miss a first-half penalty – just as they did in this fixture three months ago in a 1-1 draw.
Unlike then, this time it barely mattered.
Highlights of the game
Before kick-off, there was evidence the pressure was getting to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.
Indeed, after expressing disappointment at his pre-match comments, it would have been interesting to know if Guardiola had said anything to his counterpart.
Perhaps he didn’t need to as the comments were attributed as excuses for a faltering title defence – a quote which now appears particularly accurate.
If the opening 45 minutes were anything to go by, the home side still had a title to fight for. Chances were few but their work rate could not be questioned and they went in at the break level-pegging – Ilkay Gundogan blazing his spot-kick high after Raheem Sterling was fouled by Fabinho.
It would not stay that way for long as the in-form Gundogan redeemed himself four minutes after the restart, pouncing after Allison pushed away a shot from young England starlet Phil Foden.
The SBOTOP Premier League betting odds were stacked firmly in City’s favour at this point but, to their credit, the reigning champions were level shortly after the hour as Mohamed Salah converted a penalty after being brought down by Ruben Dias.
Then came two gifts in quick succession from Allisson.
First, he kicked the ball straight at Foden who classily dribbled into the area, drew the keeper out and placed it on a plate for Gundogan to grab his second.
Just three minutes later, the Brazilian shot-stopper made an even bigger error, passing straight to Bernardo Silva who chipped the ball to the unmarked Sterling to head home.
How Sterling, frustrated in this fixture last season, would have loved scoring against his former club.
How Allison, after a comedy of errors, must have been deflated.
The best player on the pitch though was still to find the net.
Found by substitute Gabriel Jesus, Foden simply cut inside Andrew Robertson and blasted the ball emphatically past a dumbfounded Allisson.
The scoreline may have slightly flattered City, but there was no disputing they were superior.
They say very good sides win league titles, but excellent ones retain them and fight for them back once relinquished.
It would take a brave or foolish man to bet against City doing just that in 2021!
City have now won 14 consecutive games, equalling the all-time winning run by an English top-flight side across all competitions – the same number as Preston (ending in 1892) and Arsenal (ending in 1987).
City have conceded just twice in the 12 league matches Dias and John Stones have started together (won 11, drawn one).
Foden is the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League game against Liverpool at Anfield.
The last time Liverpool lost three successive top-flight home matches was in 1963.
After 23 games this season, Liverpool (40) now have 27 fewer points than they did at the same stage last season (67), the biggest drop by any reigning champion at this stage of a campaign in English top-flight history.
This was the first time Liverpool had conceded four goals in a Premier League home match since April 2009, when they drew 4-4 against Arsenal under Rafael Benitez.
This was City’s first win at Anfield since May 2003 – their 17-match winless streak at Liverpool had been their longest in the Premier League away to any opponent.
This was only the second away win in the past 25 league meetings between these sides.
Klopp’s team have lost five of their 23 league fixtures this season, more than in the previous two campaigns combined.
After complaining of fixture congestion, Klopp may be pleased to know his side now have nearly a week off before facing Leicester in the Premier League next Saturday lunchtime. They then face RB Leipzig in the last 16 of the Champions League on February 16 (a match which will be played in Hungary).
City are next in league action at home to Spurs on Saturday but have an FA Cup fifth-round trip to Swansea on Wednesday to navigate first.
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