Liverpool 1 Manchester City 4 – Can we declare Man City the champions already?
It is time stop labelling the Premier League the most exciting league in the world.
After all, how can it possibly hold that accolade when the Premier League title race has more or less been decided by February for two seasons in a row now?
Alright, maybe I am exaggerating a little. Manchester City are not sure-fire winners of the Premier League this season. Yet.
But who would dare bet against them after their comprehensive 4-1 mauling of the once untouchable champions Liverpool this morning (SGT)?
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That City’s victory – at Anfield, no less – was in large part caused by Liverpool goalkeeper David De GeAlisson should not take away from the fact that Pep Guardiola’s men were full value for the three points.
In fact, the margin of victory could have been even more damning for Liverpool if not for Ilkay Gundogan’s homage to the Super Bowl and Mo Salah’s Tom Daley tribute act.
City have now won 10 Premier League games in a row and are sitting pretty at the top of the table on 50 points – five points ahead of second-placed neighbours Manchester United, who have played a game more.
Liverpool, on the other hand, sit in fourth on 40 points, and could even slip further down the table if their neighbours Everton win their two games in hand.
And while you can throw up all the usual footballing cliches like ‘it’s not over till the final whistle’, ‘the ball is round’, and my personal favourite, “the referee is a w*nker”, the signs all point to Liverpool’s title charge being over, with City comfortably crowned the league champions come the end of the season.
Not convinced? Then maybe re-living how City tore through Liverpool at Anfield this morning (SGT) will do the trick.
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Line-ups: Once again, a depleted Liverpool side are forced to field two midfielders in Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in the centre of defence. In response, City opt to play without a recognised striker. And no, this does not mean they played with Gabriel Jesus up front. Instead, Guardiola chooses a front-three of Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez to lead his attack, with Gundogan, Rodri and Bernardo Silva supporting them in midfield. Dias and John Stones continue their magnificent partnership in defence, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Joao Cancelo flanking them in the full-back positions.
As for Liverpool, it’s the formerly fearsome front-three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah leading the line for them, with Jurgen Klopp deciding to go toe-to-toe with Guardiola’s 4-3-3 formation. Youngster Curtis Jones is given the responsibility to run the midfield with Gini Wijnaldum and Thiago Alcantara. Overall, given that City are also missing key players in Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, it looks like a pretty even contest on paper.
25th min: Mane sends a header just over the bar
After an even first quarter of the game, Liverpool suddenly spring to life with Trent Alexander-Arnold cutting Zinchenko like a ripened tomato and sending a pinpoint cross into the box for Mane. Unfortunately for the home side, the Senegalese forward can only direct his header over the bar.
29th min: Firmino forces Ederson into a save
Buoyed by Mane’s close shave, the Reds fashion another decent chance soon after. This time, it’s Firmino who goes close as he picks up the loose ball just inside the box and fires a half-volley at goal. It’s a fierce shot, but it’s straight at Ederson. I swear I saw the City goalkeeper stifle a yawn before casually palming the ball over.
36th min: PENALTY! Sterling dances his way into the box and gets tripped by Fabinho
And just like that, City, who have barely threatened Alisson’s goal, are given a golden opportunity to take the lead. Sterling dances his way past TAA, who retracts his leg for fear of giving away a penalty. But Fabinho fails to do the same, and Sterling accepts the invitation to go down in the box. Was it soft? A little. But we’ve seen softer penalties been given this season.
37th min: PENALTY MISSED! Gundogan sends the ball over the bar
Gundogan steps up to take the resulting penalty. He looks confident. Calm. Assured. He looks like he’s done this a million times and not missed a single one. He looks like he’s…aaaannd it’s over the bar. What a let-off for Liverpool, but Gundogan will be rightly disappointed he failed to give his side the lead, as both teams head into the break on level terms. It’s not the most exciting 45 minutes you’ll see in a football match, but we really should have seen at least a goal already. Still, it’s evenly poised, and far too close a match to call for now.
49th min: GOAL! Gundogan makes amends by opening the scoring
The deadlock is finally broken! Once again, Sterling goes past TAA far too easily before laying it off to Foden, who takes a snap shot at goal. Alisson does his best impression De Gea and palms the ball right into the path of Gundogan, who this time manages to keep his shot just under the bar and into the roof of the net.
62nd min: PENALTY! Salah goes down in the box after Dias nearly rips his arm off
Salah does what Salah does best, and wins a penalty for Liverpool. I will leave it to your interpretation what I mean by that. Dias the culprit who gives away the spot-kick, after he nearly dismembered Salah by tugging on his arm in the box. Or at least, that’s what it felt like he was doing, based on Salah’s reaction when he fell. Despite denying a clear goalscoring opportunity while NOT challenging for the ball, Dias avoids getting sent off, simply because he doesn’t wear an Arsenal jersey and sport long, curly hair. Yes, I'm still bitter.
63nd min: GOAL! Salah recovers from Dias’ heinous foul and slams home the penalty
Salah makes a miraculous recovery and steps up to take the spot-kick. Of course, he makes no mistake from the spot and scores. 1-1.
73rd min: GOAL! Alisson gifts City the lead
Well, that was…not pretty. Alisson nearly gives away possession cheaply, but Fabinho manages to bail him out. The Brazilian goalkeeper, however, apparently realises he enjoys living life on the edge, and gives the ball away to a City player yet again. This time, City make Liverpool pay, as Foden drives forward and squares the ball to Gundogan to tap home from close range.
76th min: GOAL! Alisson gifts City another goal
You would have thought Alisson would have learnt…Alesson (hur hur) from conceding that goal. Not a chance. The 28-year-old tries to play it out from his area once again, but only manages to give the ball away to Silva, who sends a cross into the box for an unmarked Sterling to head into an empty net. It’s 3-1 to City, and it looks like it’s game over already.
83rd min: GOAL! Foden puts the icing on the cake with no help from Alisson this time
In a shocking plot twist, Alisson does not make a mistake for City’s fourth goal. But he also can’t stop it. The impressive Foden gets his name on the scoresheet this time, as he cuts in from the right before thundering an unstoppable strike into the top-right corner. It’s as good a goal as he’ll ever score, and it’s a fitting way to cap off a superb performance from both the English youngster and City as a whole.
The final whistle goes with no other mistakes from Alisson, which means the score ends 4-1 to the visitors. Despite the obvious quality in this City squad, nobody really expected Liverpool to fall to such a heavy defeat, especially at Anfield, which these days is looking less like a fortress and more like a mattress. It’ll be interesting to see how Klopp picks his men up from this defeat as they try and salvage something from this season. Forget finishing as champions – they’d do well to finish above United and in the top-four.
As for City, nothing less than the title will do now, given the position that they’ve put themselves in. There’s still a long way to go this season, of course, but looking at how inconsistent the rest of the teams in the league are, there’s really ever going to be one winner this season, and that’s Manchester City.