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 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 and watched by England manager Gareth Southgatei, 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.
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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.
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.
‘Two massive mistakes and a genius’ – what they said
Liverpool manager Klopp told BBC Sport: “I saw a really good game and big mistakes. In each game, when you make these kind of mistakes, it’s very likely you concede goals.
“It’s easy to agree that the first half was a really good game, two sides really trying a lot to cause problems for each other, and I liked a lot I saw in the game.
“Coming out in the second half, they changed the system and we didn’t move enough in midfield. We scored our goal and in that moment it was possible the game goes in our direction, but Alisson made two massive mistakes, gave two goals away – and then a genius situation from Phil Foden.
“The confidence could have suffered after the last game but tonight I saw a very confident team, if I’m honest. I liked the football we played. It’s very difficult to explain that we lost 4-1.”
Manchester City boss Guardiola told BBC Sport: “I have a lot of emotions, many things happening in the game. Gundogan missed a penalty – it’s like a routine against them – but we started really, really well, doing what we want to do.
“In the second half, the way we reacted to the goal, the way we played with quality, made the difference.
“For many years we were not able to win here. Hopefully next time we can do it with people. Anfield is so intimidating.”
Speaking to Sky Sports, he added: “It is an important win, but it is February. Of course, the gap to fifth is big right now and [qualifying] for the Champions League next season is important – but 10 wins in a row in this period is something exceptional.”
Man City not on the spot but Foden shining amongst youngsters – the stats
- Four of the past six penalties to have missed the target completely in the Premier League have been by Manchester City players, with three of those coming against Liverpool (Mahrez in October 2018, De Bruyne in November 2020 and Gundogan on Sunday).
- In comparison, Liverpool have converted their last 19 Premier League penalties, with Salah scoring 13 of those.
- City’s Sterling won his 21st penalty in the Premier League – more than any other player in the history of the competition.
- Sterling is only the third player to score 100 or more goals under Guardiola, after Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (211) and City team-mate Aguero (120).
- Of all players to score at least 10 goals within the top five European leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain) this season, only Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Haaland (20 years 2021 days) is younger than Manchester City’s Foden (20 years 255 days).
- Since netting his first goal of the season on 15 December, City’s Ilkay Gundogan has scored at least three more Premier League goals than any other player (nine).
Liverpool visit third-placed Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday (12:30 GMT kick-off). Manchester City travel to Championship side Swansea City in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday (17:30) and then host Tottenham Hotspur in the league on Saturday (17:30).
Player of the match
with an average of 8.22
Squad number11Player nameMohamed Salah
Squad number17Player nameJones
Squad number10Player nameMané
Squad number14Player nameHenderson
Squad number26Player nameRobertson
Squad number5Player nameWijnaldum
Squad number66Player nameAlexander-Arnold
Squad number7Player nameMilner
Squad number9Player nameRoberto Firmino
Squad number3Player nameFabinho
Squad number6Player nameThiago Alcántara
Squad number23Player nameShaqiri
Squad number21Player nameTsimikas
Squad number1Player nameAlisson
Squad number47Player nameFoden
Squad number8Player nameGündogan
Squad number7Player nameSterling
Squad number5Player nameStones
Squad number20Player nameBernardo Silva
Squad number16Player nameRodri
Squad number27Player nameJoão Cancelo
Squad number9Player nameGabriel Jesus
Squad number31Player nameEderson
Squad number11Player nameZinchenko
Squad number3Player nameRúben Dias
Squad number26Player nameMahrez
- 3FabinhoBooked at 70mins
- 26RobertsonSubstituted forTsimikasat 85′minutes
- 6Thiago AlcántaraBooked at 3minsSubstituted forShaqiriat 68′minutes
- 17JonesSubstituted forMilnerat 68′minutes
- 76N Williams
- 3Rúben DiasBooked at 62mins
- 20Bernardo Silva
- 26MahrezSubstituted forGabriel Jesusat 72′minutes
- 9Gabriel Jesus
Match ends, Liverpool 1, Manchester City 4.
Second Half ends, Liverpool 1, Manchester City 4.
Foul by Konstantinos Tsimikas (Liverpool).
Phil Foden (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Xherdan Shaqiri.
Foul by Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool).
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Substitution, Liverpool. Konstantinos Tsimikas replaces Andrew Robertson.
Foul by Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool).
Ederson (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Liverpool 1, Manchester City 4. Phil Foden (Manchester City) left footed shot from the right side of the box to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Gabriel Jesus.
Foul by Andrew Robertson (Liverpool).
Phil Foden (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Liverpool 1, Manchester City 3. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) header from very close range to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Bernardo Silva.
Goal! Liverpool 1, Manchester City 2. Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) right footed shot from very close range to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Phil Foden.
Substitution, Manchester City. Gabriel Jesus replaces Riyad Mahrez.
VAR Decision: No Goal Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City.
Offside, Manchester City. Phil Foden tries a through ball, but John Stones is caught offside.
Fabinho (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
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