A painful, frustrating wait stretching back to May 2003 was finally ended by Manchester City, with their victory at Anfield ending a 17-match winless streak against Liverpool here, while priming them to regain the league title.
An encounter that was largely defined by Alisson’s errors in the final stanza of play also erased Pep Guardiola’s misery at this stadium, but compounded the hosts’ recent misery: they’ve lost three in a row on their own turf in the division for the first time since September 1963.
The defending champions continue to crumble while their chief rivals have managed to turn what was their most obvious weakness into a steely strength.
The importance of the clash could be gleaned from the fact that there was greater noise emanating from the technical areas and both benches than has previously been heard at a supporter-less Anfield.
Each successful press and tackle was greeted like a mini victory for each side’s respective approach.
As expected, the shape of the match followed the recent strategic jostling between these heavyweights, as opposed to the explosive affairs that previously defined this fixture. Exit entertainment, enter tactical warfare.
Guardiola’s side intended to dominate the ball, Liverpool wanted to thieve possession and turn it into rapid attacks. The new-and-improved City do not succumb in transition, though and their diligence without the ball starved the hosts of space to run into.
When Liverpool turned the ball over, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane ready to morph into weapons, they met a wall of bodies already in position to break up any danger.
The details were, as ever between these two, focused on in microscopic detail. This was snapshotted by Ruben Dias pulling Oleksandr Zinchenko by the head to make sure he was properly stationed lying down behind the wall to deny Liverpool a low free-kick.
It was Klopp’s men that carved out the best chances of the opening 45. Trent Alexander-Arnold had displayed superb footwork to outsmart Oleksandr Zinchenko and deliver an inviting ball towards the near post for Mane.
The Senegal forward got in front of Joao Cancelo, but uncharacteristically headed over.
Liverpool were enjoying their most aggressive phase of play and Roberto Firmino latched onto a Dias clearance to volley the bouncing ball, forcing a save from Ederson.
Curtis Jones had thwarted an excellent breakaway run from Phil Foden, but just when it looked like the Merseysiders had wrestled control of the encounter, Raheem Sterling ran at Alexander-Arnold and then Fabinho, with the latter’s dangling leg making contact in the box.
City had a penalty to undercut Liverpool’s spell, but Ilkay Gundogan hideously blazed into the banners decorating the empty Kop.
Guardiola, who has lost more games at this ground than any other in his career, could not believe it. He fired expletives skyward, flinging his arms into the air before kicking a drinks bucket and then slumping back into his seat.
Not again. Not here. Not against them.
He cut a different picture after the interval. Fireworks had lit the night sky and City found their spark. Sterling darted infield from the left, with Alexander-Arnold affording him the freedom of attacking the space he wanted to.
The forward slid a square pass to Foden, which Alisson had brilliant saved. With Liverpool so passive in the entire passage of play, Gundogan was the sharpest to react and converted the rebound to erase the embarrassment of his spot-kick miss.
The game opened up more and the one thing City would’ve banked on not to happen did materialise.
The transformative Dias, a Player of the Season frontrunner, made a mess of a clearance and pulled Salah back in a panic.
There was minimal contact, but enough for Michael Oliver to point to the spot. The Egyptian characteristically blasted in to even matters.
If the Dias mistake was unexpected, what was to come from Alisson shredded all belief.
On 73 minutes, after the goalkeeper had already just ceded possession, Liverpool played it back to him again.
He hooked a clearance straight to Foden, who slipped between Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson, setting up Gundogan.
The midfielder, in prolific form, stabbed high into the net from close range.
Three minutes later, under no pressure, Alisson passed straight to Bernardo Silva on the right of the area. He clipped the ball over Liverpool’s No 1, gifting Sterling a header into the net from a yard out.
Liverpool were done and dusted, but Foden sprinkled some wonder at the death with a goal his man-of-the-match performance deserved.
The 20-year-old sped at Robertson, the ball glued to his left foot, before he switched it inside and spanked in a shot that beat Alisson for pace.
It was an evening for the Brazilian and Liverpool to forget, but one that cemented Foden as a certified star and ordained City as champions in waiting.
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