Man City put four past Reds at Anfield

Raheem Sterling scored for the third successive game for Manchester City

Manchester City took a potentially decisive hold on the Premier League title race as they thrashed Liverpool at Anfield – helped by a virtuoso performance by Phil Foden and a nightmare display from the champions’ goalkeeper Alisson.

City’s comprehensive triumph, their first at Anfield since 2003 and manager Pep Guardiola’s first away to Liverpool as a manager, was achieved in such comfort that they were able to recover from Ilkay Gundogan’s first-half penalty miss.

Gundogan, who skied his spot-kick after Fabinho fouled Raheem Sterling, made amends when he put City ahead four minutes into the second period, after Alisson could only push out Foden’s shot.

Mohamed Salah equalised for Liverpool from the spot just after the hour after he was hauled back by Ruben Dias – but then came the combination of Alisson’s errors and Foden’s genius as the hosts were run ragged.

Alisson was punished for two poor clearances as Foden set up Gundogan to put City back in front after 73 minutes, then three minutes later the Brazil keeper inexplicably sent a pass straight to Bernardo Silva, whose clever cross was headed in almost on the goalline by Sterling.

City saved the best until last when Foden, the game’s outstanding performer, thundered a magnificent finish high past the beleaguered Alisson seven minutes from time.

The emphatic victory leaves City five points ahead of second-placed Manchester United, having played a game less – and 10 points ahead of Liverpool with a match in hand.

Payback time for Guardiola and Man City

Manchester City and Guardiola have had some miserable days and nights at Anfield since Jurgen Klopp became Liverpool manager – this was the game, the performance and the scoreline that made this almost the perfect day.

Guardiola’s incendiary reaction to Gundogan’s first-half penalty miss demonstrated how much he wanted to win this game and perhaps how he feared history repeating itself. But his frustration was short-lived as City produced a second-half masterclass that left the champions badly beaten.

And while the Reds will point to their collection of injuries as a reason for their fall from grace, it should also be pointed out that City were missing the brilliance of midfielder Kevin de Bruyne and the predatory instincts of striker Sergio Aguero.

It was only a rare error from Dias that gave Liverpool hope – although Sadio Mane headed over in the first half and Ederson saved well from Roberto Firmino – and once Gudogan restored City’s advantage there was only one winner here.

Phil Foden scores Manchester City's fourth goal in their win at Liverpool
Phil Foden, 20, is the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League game against Liverpool at Anfield

At the heart of it all was the brilliant Foden, head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch and flourishing even more when Guardiola cleverly removed Riyad Mahrez and placed the 20-year-old England international on the right flank.

He made two goals and scored a sensational fourth as City put down a marker and confirmed their status as the team to beat in the title race. It was also a 14th straight win, which equals the all-time winning run by an English top-flight team, shared with Preston in 1892 and Arsenal in 1987.

City have been growing in stature in recent weeks, imperious in defence and threatening in attack – but this ruthless dismissal of an opponent that has haunted them at Anfield in the recent past is their most powerful statement of intent yet.

Alisson sums up Liverpool despair

The sight of Liverpool keeper Alisson slumping in dejection after Foden’s shot tore past him into the roof of the net – he could barely have seen it – for Manchester City’s fourth goal summed up the sheer misery of the champions.

As Liverpool have won Premier League and Champions League titles, the 28-year-old Brazilian has been one of their most reliable figures, a game-changer to place alongside the arrival of defender Virgil van Dijk.

However, he suffered arguably the biggest nightmare of his Liverpool career on Sunday, making two bad clearances in the build-up to City’s crucial second goal, then compounding it with an even worse error as he picked out Silva standing all on his own with an inexplicable pass, the Portuguese accepting the invitation to set up Sterling.

Liverpool showed occasional flashes of the old flair in the first half but ended up outclassed and on the receiving end of their third successive Premier League home loss, City following in the footsteps of Burnley – who ended the Reds’ 68-match unbeaten league run at Anfield – and Brighton.

In reality, it was City – so organised, composed and determined to press Liverpool – who were vastly superior over the whole piece.

Of course, Liverpool injuries will take a heavy toll, but this was a tough 90 minutes for midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who is struggling to adapt to the pace of the Premier League and made life difficult for himself with a needless early foul on Gundogan that brought a yellow card.

And while much is rightly made of the attacking prowess of full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, they struggled to cope with City’s width as Sterling and Foden exposed them brutally at times.

Liverpool look very flat at Anfield and the stats say it all. They are the first side to lose three straight home matches the season after winning the title since Chelsea in March 1956 and have 27 points fewer than they did at the same stage last season – the biggest drop by any reigning champions in top-flight history.

Klopp clearly felt this was not the day to risk his deadline-day centre-back signings Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak, but they still looked horribly vulnerable.

Liverpool’s manager and their players have enjoyed some triumphant days against City here in recent seasons – this was not one of them.

More to follow.

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Player of the match

FodenPhil Foden

Line-ups

Liverpool

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Alisson
  • 66Alexander-Arnold
  • 3FabinhoBooked at 70mins
  • 14Henderson
  • 26RobertsonSubstituted forTsimikasat 85′minutes
  • 6Thiago AlcántaraBooked at 3minsSubstituted forShaqiriat 68′minutes
  • 5Wijnaldum
  • 17JonesSubstituted forMilnerat 68′minutes
  • 11Salah
  • 9Firmino
  • 10Mané

Substitutes

  • 7Milner
  • 13Adrián
  • 15Oxlade-Chamberlain
  • 19Kabak
  • 21Tsimikas
  • 23Shaqiri
  • 27Origi
  • 47Phillips
  • 76N Williams

Man City

Formation 4-3-3

  • 31Ederson
  • 27Cancelo
  • 5Stones
  • 3Rúben DiasBooked at 62mins
  • 11Zinchenko
  • 20Bernardo Silva
  • 16Rodri
  • 8Gündogan
  • 26MahrezSubstituted forGabriel Jesusat 72′minutes
  • 47Foden
  • 7Sterling

Substitutes

  • 9Gabriel Jesus
  • 13Steffen
  • 14Laporte
  • 21Torres
  • 22Mendy
  • 25Fernandinho
  • 50García
  • 69Doyle
  • 82Bernabé

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