LIVERPOOL 1, MAN CITY 4
Manchester City stamped their authority on the Premier League title race with a remarkable victory at reigning champions Liverpool.
In what was billed as a must-win game for Jurgen Klopp’s side, City inflicted a humiliating home loss on the Reds.
It leaves City 10 points clear of Liverpool having played one less match.
And with Manchester United and Leicester City faltering this weekend, it looks City’s title to lose as they made it 14 straight wins in all competitions and stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to 21 matches.
There was also a piece of history in the making as this was City’s 10th straight league victory as they equalled a top-flight record jointly held by Preston (1892) and Arsenal (1987).
City triumphed at Anfield for the first time since 2003 thanks to two goals from Ilkay Gundogan – he even missed a penalty and one apiece for Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden who was aged two when they last triumphed.
It was a sad night for Liverpool who lost a third successive home league game for the first time since 1963 with goalkeeper Alisson Becker having a nightmare as his blunders gifted City their second and third goals.
And what a dramatic turnabout to when the two teams met for a 1-1 draw at the Etihad in early November – then Liverpool were top and City a distant 10th.
Now City are top after their remarkable run while Liverpool, with three wins in their last 11 games, are floundering in fourth place.Embed from Getty Images
Guardiola said: “It was a phenomenal performance and a really important three points.
“Of course I am so proud for the guys to break the record by winning here for the first time for a long time.
“It is a huge victory for us. Three more points at the end but I take into consideration the fact we won after we missed a penalty and conceded a goal but the way we reacted… that made the difference.
“Hopefully next time we can win here with people. Anfield is always impressive but with people it is much more.
“I am grateful and happy for this victory. We will keep our feet on the grass and tomorrow prepare tomorrow for Swansea in the FA Cup.”
Guardiola would not be drawn on City’s title prospects, adding: “I do not predict the future. A five-point lead in February is nothing.
“We have to play Tottenham, Arsenal, many tough games. We have to be calm and keep going.
“It is an important win, but it is February. Of course the gap to fifth is big right now and that means for the Champions League for next season is important but 10 wins in a row in this period is something exceptional. Today is the time to talk about this but tomorrow we look to the next game.”
Man-of-the-match Foden said: “It’s brilliant, every player wants to play in big games like this and we showed that courage from minute one. They made it so difficult for us, but we showed our courage to play our football and keep going, and in the end it paid off.
“I feel like sometimes we’re a slow team to get going. It was definitely better in the second half, it’s something to work on. We definitely forced the errors, it’s something we’re working at in training. Everyone worked for each other and got their rewards today.”
On his goal and the importance of the victory, he added: “I struck it perfect and I’m just happy to see it go in and help the team. It gives us every chance to go on and win [the title], but the job isn’t done and we’ve got a long way to go.
“When you beat the champions everyone’s confidence goes sky high, so it can only help us. We’re just happy to win today.”
City made two changes from the side that won at Burnley in midweek as Oleksandr Zinchenko and Foden started. Gabriel Jesus and Aymeric Laporte dropped to the bench.
Fabinho returned to the Liverpool starting line up in a boost to the Reds’ defensive issues.
The Brazilian has missed the Reds’ last three games through injury. He was joined by Alisson and Sadio Mane in returning to full fitness and also starting after missing the defeat to Brighton.
Curtis Jones was the fourth change from the loss while new signing Ozan Kabak, the Turkish international central defender, was on the bench.
It was a possession-based opening from both sides and an intriguing tactical battle as the two teams sounded out one another.
Liverpool created the first clear-cut chance of the match in the 24th minute.
Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold made a terrific break and Mane met his cross but his header from seven yards narrowly cleared the crossbar.
That was quickly followed by Roberto Firmino forcing Ederson into a smart save to turn over his drive, the first on target goal attempt of the game just short of the half hour.
Just as Liverpool were beginning to assert their authority, City won a 36th minutes penalty when Sterling, cutting in from the left, went over the leg of Fabinho and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot.
The in-form Ilkay Gundogan stepped up and blazed over the crossbar high into the Kop as their penalty jinx struck again as Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne have both missed against Liverpool in recent seasons, so this was an unwanted hat-trick.
This was also City’s third spot kick miss of the current campaign, a problem which has persisted in recent seasons. In Guardiola’s time at City, they have failed to convert 13 out of 38 penalties including three out of four against Liverpool.
There were fireworks at the start of the season half but, sadly, not on the field but as impressive display outside the ground and behind the Kop.
But that was followed by fireworks on the pitch as City finally made the breakthrough in the 49th minute.
Sterling wriggled free on the left and set up Phil Foden whose close-range shot was parried by Alisson but Gundogan was on hand to tuck away the rebound from inside the six-yard box, his 10th goal of the season.
Liverpool responded positively as Curtis Jones cut in from the left and saw his shot deflect off the heel of John Stones as it flashed past the upright.
It was then Liverpool’s turn to win a penalty as Mohamad Salah was brought down by Ruben Dias who was booked.
Salah made no mistake sending Ederson the wrong way as he fired his kick high into the roof of the net for his 22nd goal of the season and Liverpool’s first home league goal in 410 minutes and the first City had conceded in 602 minutes in all competitions.
City had a goal ruled out when Stones was caught offside as he slid in to convert Foden’s cross.
It proved academic as City were ahead in the 73rd minute after a calamitous clearance from Alisson to Foden who cut in from the right and square the ball to Gundogan to tap home his second of the game and sixth in the last seven matches.
And lightning struck again three minutes later when Alisson’s clearance went straight to Bernardo Silva whose cross was headed home by Sterling from almost on the line, the 100th goal he has scored since Guardiola took charge at City and 12th of the season.
Liverpool were completely demoralised as Foden scored his 10th goal of the season, cutting in from left with seven minutes left and firing high into the roof of the net.