The title race was fun whilst it lasted for all the neutrals watching at home. Manchester City’s demolition derby destroyed the realistic hopes of Liverpool retaining their Premier League title.
A third straight home loss came at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s goliaths from down the East Lancs Road. Some stellar football from the Reds was overshadowed by a catalogue of some of the greatest goalkeeping howlers to happen in the span of just 10 minutes of play.
The use of the auxiliary centre-backs drafted in via the transfer market by Jürgen Klopp has been ruled out once again for sharpness reasons. With Kabak and Davies only just settling in after four full training sessions, a match up with the league leaders may have been a rude awakening – not as rude as the one the home supporters will be suffering from after this result.
Liverpool would get a big chance in the first half, much like their last two home defeats at Anfield, as Alexander-Arnold was able to drift a sumptuous ball into the Cityzens box for Sadio Mané to have a free header at goal. The Senegalese striker headed his effort into the Anfield Road end, more déjà vu for the home side.
More domination of the ball and another chance from a half-volley from Firmino that is sent over the crossbar from Ederson had Liverpool on top for the majority of the first half. It looked as if all the chickens were coming home to roost when a lazily outstretched leg from Fabinho on Raheem Sterling in the penalty area gifted the away side a spot-kick.
İlkay Gündoğan was the designated taker and no action was required from Alisson as the German blasted his shot high, wide, over and into the Kop end to let the Redmen off.
That penalty miss meant that aspirations of an end to a horrific run of home form after consecutive losses to Burnley and Brighton could finally end for the champions. The quality of football was very good from Liverpool in the first half, but the tale would turn for the worst very soon.
Half time: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City
Just 4 minutes in, Sterling against Alexander-Arnold and the winger ghosts past the full-back and puts the ball on a plate for Foden just outside the six-yard-box whose shot is only parried as far as Gündoğan just three yards out. He was never going to miss so close to the goal.
It was the Reds up against it again, but more luck would come their way as the signing that has sent tongues wagging at the prospect of crowning a new leader of centre-backs in the Premier League in Rúben Dias would fail to deal with a simple hopeful ball from Alexander-Arnold upfield to Salah first time around.
Stones was closing in on Salah in the box, but Dias pulled back on Salah’s arm, giving Michael Oliver no choice but to award the penalty when the Egyptian went to ground.
Up steps Liverpool’s no. 11, almost ticking the inside roof of the net as Ederson dived low to his left. Level terms and playing well, it was certainly in the realms of possibility that the title race would continue.
It was an end to 410 minutes without a goal for the home team. The strikers have not been dependable for a while, to say the least, but one man whose dependability is more than noteworthy would crumble in an instant.
Alisson dawdled on the ball in the 73rd minute as substitute Jesus closed in on the passing lane to Wijnaldum. Poking the ball to Fabinho to clear only as far as the halfway line where Zinchenko volleyed forward to Bernardo Silva. The ricochet’s allowed the ball to fall back to the feet of the no. 1 for the Reds.
A flat ball straight to Foden outside the box and a charge towards the Mancunian local boy lined up a gift of a brace for Gündoğan.
So many errors in such a small space of time for many players on the pitch usually go unnoticed, but from a goalkeeper it is devastating.
The next goal would come from another mistake from the man between the sticks. The City press was high, but Alisson had time to pick out his pass after receiving the ball in his box from Wijnaldum.
The Brazilian opted for the first time pass to Fabinho right on the corner flag, at least that looked like the only possible destination one could fathom in these aforementioned realms of possibility.
Instead, he picks out Silva who dinks the ball delightfully for Sterling to head the ball into the empty net. 3 minutes separated the time for these goals to be scored.
To cap off the day for City, Foden picks up the ball on the outside left of Liverpool’s penalty area and is guided onto his favoured left foot and is given enough time to thunder in a gorgeous goal.
If Alisson had stood up straight for that fourth goal, if Robertson had shown the English youngster down the line on his weaker right foot, had Liverpool turned up in their last two home matches – these are all the ‘and’s’, ‘if’s’, and ‘maybe’s’ that will be looked at in June when the autopsy will begin of the title defence in Jürgen Klopp’s office and analysts room in Kirkby but there is no doubt that a title retention campaign is dead in the water as this report is written.
All credit must go to Manchester City, ten consecutive wins is a tough record to maintain but the goalkeeping errors have undoubtedly ruined the complexion of a game that contained some fabulous football from Klopp’s side.
The price to pay in all of this, all hopes of a possible positive talking point for Liverpool’s gold Premier League patch season resides in Hungary against RB Leipzig and a top-four finish.
Full time: Liverpool 1-4 Manchester City
Liverpool: Alisson (1), Alexander-Arnold (6), Fabinho (6), Henderson (7), Robertson (6), Thiago (5), Wijnaldum (6), Jones (8), Salah (7), Firmino (6), Mané (6).
Subs used: Shaqiri (6), Milner (5), Tsimikas (N/A).
Man City: Ederson (6), Cancelo (5), Stones (6), Dias (5), Zinchenko (6), Silva (7), Rodri (7), Gündoğan (8), Mahrez (6), Sterling (7), Foden (9).
Subs used: Jesus (6).
Man of the match: İlkay Gündoğan.