Two careless blunders from goalkeeper Alisson proved to be decisive as Liverpool fell to a 4-1 defeat at home to a Manchester City side who look like Premier League champions in waiting. A game that began in quiet fashion in the first half burst into life in the second half when Ilkay Gundogan netted a brace on either side of the game's second penalty. Mohamed Salah scored from the spot half an hour after Gundogan had missed his own chance from 12 yards out.
The latter of Gundogan's brace came as Alisson attempted to play the ball out from the back but merely handed possession to Phil Foden to cut the ball across goal for his teammate to tap in. Moments later, Liverpool's goalkeeper repeated the trick, giving the ball to Bernardo Silva who lobbed a cross over the Brazilian for Raheem Sterling to head home.
City's first win at Anfield since 2003 was secured in emphatic fashion as the outstanding Foden hammered a shot into the roof of the net, firing his side to a five=point lead at the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand on those around them.
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Here are some talking points from Sunday's game.
Liverpool's curious aversion to attacks
If there has been a defining aspect to games at Anfield with Jurgen Klopp as the manager it has been the remorseless pace at which they have been played. Though Liverpool became a more patient attack in their title-winning campaign that often seemed more down to conservative opponents than this team's particular preference. Whenever the chance came to slice through the lines you could be sure this team would take it.
Yet for so much of the early moments of this game Liverpool were anything but the team we have come to know. Give them an opportunity to push the pace and they were more likely to check back or move possession sideways. On occasion a veteran would push the pace, for instance when Henderson charged into midfield and lobbed a ball up to Mohamed Salah to begin a move that would culminate in Firmino testing Ederson with a strong volley.
Meanwhile a plan to press City high up the pitch seemed to be ditched as soon as Thiago Alcantara picked up an early booking for a woeful challenge on Ilkay Gundogan. Such aggression out of possession has been a trend in the Spaniard's return to the Liverpool side; since his return on Jan. 4 he has made 21 fouls in the Premier League. No other player has made more than 15.
So often those clumsy tackles have been out of an understandable desire to kill opposing counter-attacks before they get to Liverpool's soft centre. Many of his team-mates shared Thiago's fear today. This was the approach of a team more focused on their weaknesses than their strengths. It is strange to see Klopp's men approach a game in such fashion. It clearly did not work.
Guardiola's switch changes the contest
City themselves had been scarcely more assertive in the first period. Two teams that know each other intimately seemed a little fearful of what their opponent might do to them with space and time. All too often Raheem Sterling or false nine Phil Foden found themselves carrying out one-man counter-attacks when the ball came their way. Such was their individual quality that that could force mistakes of Liverpool, as the former proved when he won a first-half penalty. But there were no real spells of pressure.
That changed immediately on the interval when Guardiola pushed Bernardo Silva alongside Foden, if nothing else giving City weight of numbers in the box that could punish mistakes. Sterling continued to roast Alexander-Arnold whenever he darted inside, having won a spot-kick in the first. His play forced Liverpool defenders to shuffle across and there was no one on hand but Gundogan to pounce on the rebound from Foden's shot.
Though a rare Ruben Dias error handed parity to Liverpool, City knew their opposing defense was there for the taking. Crucially the presence of Foden, Silva and latterly Gabriel Jesus high up in central areas opened up opportunities for untracked late runs from Gundogan, whilst closing the angles for the Reds to build from deep.
Guardiola could never have imagined that their route to victory would have come through two disastrous errors by the usually excellent Alisson but he had put his side in the perfect position to capitalize on any errors.
Phil Foden: His best performance yet, the moment when he was the shining light for City in a massive match. His goal was the icing on the cake but perhaps more impressive was the way he interpreted his role as the nominal center forward in the early stages, continually finding space and angles to attack Liverpool. RATING: 9
Trent Alexander-Arnold: There were flurries of the right-back at his best in attack but without the ball he seemed incapable of doing anything to even slow Sterling. RATING: 4
Premier League outlook
City are now five points clear at the top of the table whilst Liverpool are a further five points behind. Guardiola's side has played a game fewer than any of the top five and have won 10 straight in the Premier League.