Liverpool’s incredible home record against Manchester City came to an abrupt halt as the blues put the Reds to the sword at Anfield.
A double from Ilkay Gundogan, a first goal for City against Liverpool at Anfield for Raheem Sterling and a stunning finish from Phil Foden gave City their first win on the red half of Merseyside since 2003 and only their third in 40 years. And the blues could also afford to miss a first half penalty and have a second half goal chalked off as City ran riot.
Before the match, City were already seven points ahead of the champions and two points clear of United in 2nd place, and were boosted yesterday when the reds were held to a 3-3 home draw with Everton, with the visitors coming from 2-0 and 3-2 down to claim a point.
But the attention was firmly on City and the focus on that abysmal record that has seen City lose 13 games since Nicolas Anelka scored a double to end a 20 year wait for victory at Anfield. But there was a feeling of anticipation amongst the faithful in the build-up towards the match, which may have been down to the differing forms of the two sides.
City had won their last 13 matches in all competitions, while Liverpool’s well-documented unbeaten Anfield run and been destroyed by first Burnley then Brighton, both winning 1-0 at the home of the champions, and a third straight home defeat was almost unthinkable.
But the blues turned on the style to turn the unthinkable into the believable as City hammered home their dominance and took advantage of the poor run of form the current, but for how much longer, champions are enduring.
City have been known for conceding early goals in this fixture, so the faithful would have been happy to get to ten minutes without conceding. In fact, it was the blues that were doing all the running, and if the final ball into the box was better, the blues would have been ahead and away by half time.
Things might have been very different in the match had Thiago’s challenge in the second minute on Gundogan bee more severe. The Liverpool man brought down the in-form German international after just two minutes, a challenge that earned him a booking and thankfully no serious injury to Gundo.
And the City midfielder had a chance to make Liverpool pay for that 8 minutes before the break when City were awarded a penalty. Sterling danced into the area and was brought down by Fabino and the referee instantly pointed to the spot. The memories of two seasons ago came flooding back when Riyad Mahrez fired a spot kick over the bar to deny City victory – surely the same wouldn’t happen to Gundo. Sadly history repeated itself as Gundogan took a short run up and hammered his shot into the empty Kop.
The faithful would have been forgiven for fearing the worst, given City’s record at Anfield and hearts were in the mouths when Liverpool made some half-hearted appeal for handball against Ruben Dias, but there was never any chance of the referee giving that.
The highlight of the half had to come just before the interval when Liverpool won a free kick just outside the penalty area. Oleksandr Zinchenko lay down behind the wall, only for Dias to note his unhappiness of the Ukraine’s position and dragged him a couple of feet along the floor. Thankfully, the free kick came to nothing and the two teams went in 0-0 at half-time.
City swapped formation in the second half and it paid dividends immediately and within 4 minutes, the blues were in front. Sterling raced into the penalty area and his cut-back was met by Foden, but his shot was only parried by Allison in the Liverpool goal. Gundogan reacted quickest to hammer the loose ball home and make up for his earlier penalty miss.
Liverpool hadn’t scored a home goal in 2021, so naturally they had to break that against City, and it was an expected penalty that brought it. Although there was contact, it seemed to be minimal, but the referee deemed it enough to award a spot-kick. Salah stepped up and thumped the ball home for 1-1.
John Stones had a goal disallowed for offside before City turned up the heat. Ten minutes later, a bizarre ten-minute spell ended any resistance Liverpool had to offer and any hope of inflicting a further defeat on the blues, and it was all thanks to some strange antics form the Liverpool keeper, who seemed to be staking a claim to play for the blues.
In the 73rd minute, the Brazilian international dithered on the edge of his own penalty area and the home side failed to clear their ranks. The ball found its way back to Allison, who then proceeded to feed Foden on the right, and his cross was converted by Gundogan to put City back in front.
Three minutes later, Allison played the ball straight to Bernardo Silva, who lofted the ball to the far post where Sterling was waiting to nod the ball home. How the former Liverpool winger would have loved to have scored that goal in front of the home supporters, who have given him so much stick since his move to City from Merseyside 6 years ago.
That third goal was the punch in the gut that finished off the champions fight in the match and hammers another nail into their hopes of a second successive league title, but City and Foden in particular, just wanted to make sure.
Collecting a brilliant pass from substitute Gabriel Jesus, Foden cut inside Andrew Robertson and unleash a ferocious shot that flew past the keeper and into the net, before bouncing out again, such was the power on the shot.
It was a magnificent strike to cap a magnificent performance, not just from the Stockport Iniesta but the entire team, as Pep Guardiola finally removed the shackles of caution at Anfield.
Final Score: Liverpool 1-4 Manchester City