Manchester City hammer sorry Liverpool at Anfield after Alisson errors
Will anybody stop Manchester City now? With the sky blue juggernaut in historic form, it feels extremely unlikely. This was a day when Ilkay Gündogan recovered from a first-half penalty miss to score twice, Raheem Sterling found the net at Anfield for the first time since swapping Liverpool for City in 2015 and Phil Foden embellished both the scoreline and a wonderful individual performance with an emphatic late finish.
It means City have put clear daylight between themselves and their nearest challengers, Manchester United – the advantage is five points with a game in hand – and one thing felt certain: as City enjoyed only their second league win here in 30 visits, Liverpool’s defence of their title that they won so convincingly last season appears over.
Jürgen Klopp’s team are left lagging 10 points behind City, having played a game more, and it was an occasion when a backline subjected to so much adversity and ill fortune this season fell apart.
Unusually it was Alisson, back after illness, who made the most glaring errors, the ones that tilted the second half away from his team after they had equalised through Mohamed Salah’s penalty. But each of the four players in front of him were beaten too easily at various points during a performance characterised by looseness.
Alisson is usually so cool with the ball at this feet, his distribution one of the factors that mark him out as the complete modern-day goalkeeper, but he got his bearings all wrong not once but twice. How City made him and Liverpool pay.
He had dallied in possession outside his area on 73 minutes, putting his team in trouble, only for them to clear. But after City pushed and the ball came back to him, he shanked a pass to Foden, who offered a flash of the quick feet and drive that have made him the great young hope of the England team.
Foden had too much for Jordan Henderson, who again played in central defence alongside Fabinho – another midfielder by trade. Klopp had decided that his two specialist central defensive signings, Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, who arrived last Monday, were not ready to play. Foden went around Henderson and his cut back found Gündogan, who scored his second for 2-1.
Alisson’s nightmare was not over. Moments later, with Liverpool living on the edge in the jaws of the City press, he accepted a back-pass from Gini Wijnaldum and jabbed the ball to Bernardo Silva, who advanced from right to left before floating the perfect cross towards Sterling at the far post. Sterling enjoyed the header into the empty net, mindful perhaps of how he has struggled here since his transfer, and Liverpool were broken.
Foden, who played as a false nine before being switched to the right flank, was not finished. He had been prominent in Gündogan’s first goal early in the second half and now he took a crossfield pass, stepped inside Andy Robertson and lashed a vicious shot high into the net. It was too hot for Alisson to handle and sent Liverpool spinning to a third straight league defeat at Anfield for the first time since 1963. What it did for their title defence was more significant.
For City, it is 10 straight victories in the league and 14 in all competitions, which only two top-flight clubs have done – Preston in 1892 and Arsenal in 1987.
Klopp had described his team as mentally and physically fatigued after last Wednesday’s home loss to Brighton but they did shade a slow-burning first half. Sadio Mané missed a gilt-edged headed chance following a Curtis Jones cross and Roberto Firmino worked Ederson from distance.
City threatened only once before the interval, when Sterling cut inside Trent Alexander-Arnold then threw Fabinho with a stepover. The Liverpool player checked his run slightly and there was contact with Sterling, although the penalty award still felt a little soft. Gündogan lifted his kick over the crossbar.
It was tempting to ask where the fireworks were. Well, they came in the 47th minute – literally – with a display set off behind the Kop, presumably by a group of Liverpool fans. They banged high into the evening sky but it was City who blew the game open shortly afterwards.
Sterling once again cut inside Alexander-Arnold and Liverpool’s other defenders were ball-watching when he slid a pass into Foden, who unloaded quickly. Alisson blocked but Gündogan, who has become more of a penalty area presence this season, was on hand to crash home.
Liverpool grabbed a lifeline after John Stones had deflected a Jones shot past the far post. It was a rare error from Rúben Dias that allowed Salah in on goal and the defender’s grab invited the forward to go to ground, which he did. It was another soft, if correct, decision. Salah converted with power.
But City had only just started and, after Stones had seen a goal ruled out for offside from a whipped Foden delivery, they turned the screw on Alisson. At the sixth time of asking, Pep Guardiola has won at Anfield. A rather more notable achievement beckons.