Manchester City records a statement win with a 4-0 demolition of Liverpool
- Manchester City give Liverpool a guard of honour, and then little else as they run rampant against the newly minted champions
This is not how Liverpool would have imagined their long parade as the newly elected Premier League champions to begin. Playing for pride, deposed champions Manchester City took apart the Reds in a clinical first half performance that left one of the best teams in the world gasping for breath. Goals from Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden followed a coolly taken penalty by the excellent Kevin De Bruyne, as City ran through a Liverpool team that seemed to be carrying some after effects of their title-winning weekend party. In the second half, an own goal by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain completed Liverpool’s misery. This match was City’s declaration that they will not go quietly into the night.
Liverpool received a guard of honour from City before the game, a rather quaint Premier League tradition, which seemed even stranger in an empty stadium. And despite the lack of any atmosphere, both teams began the game on the front-foot, with City hogging possession but with Liverpool creating the better chances. By the time that Joe Gomez fouled Sterling to give away a penalty on the 25th minute, Liverpool had sliced open the City defence on a couple of occasions. The pick of the chances was when Mohamed Salah danced in from the right wing and fired a low, hard shot beyond the flailing City goalkeeper Ederson, only to see it cannon off the goalpost. Sadio Mané was first to the rebound, but couldn’t control it. Then City took over.
For an unpredictable game, sometimes football seems to work in neat symmetries. In the 2017-18 season, when City won the first of their two back-to-back league titles under manager Pep Guardiola, they’d finished 25 points ahead of Liverpool in fourth. Last season, the difference was one point. This season, the pendulum has swung the other way, with Liverpool currently 20 points ahead of City. But this performance confirms Jürgen Klopp’s insistence before the game that City remain as much of a threat as ever. Indeed, while Liverpool showed none of the hunger that has spurred them through this season, City played as if affronted at being second.
In De Bruyne and İlkay Gündoğan, City have two outstanding midfielders, and assisted ably by Rodri and Foden, they bypassed the Liverpool press entirely and found holes in the league’s best defence with ease. Liverpool’s defenders, on the other hand, had a nightmare, with Trent Alexander Arnold, Joe Gomez and Andy Robertson all at fault for the four goals. On the other hand, when put through on goal by Jordan Henderson, the normally clinical Mané couldn’t sort out his legs in time and let a glorious opportunity pass.
City will take a lot of heart from this performance. They can still win a treble this year, adding the FA Cup and the Champions League to the League Cup they won in March. And that would make for a fantastic season. However, the club has some dark clouds on the horizon. They could be banned from Champions League football for the next two seasons if they lose their appeal at the court of arbitration for sport for breaching financial fair play rules. That would be a massive blow, as top stars might feel the need to move on with no European games in the offing. De Bruyne, for one, has stated that he would consider his future at the club should they lose out on European football. Guardiola’s contract runs till 2021, and he might move on too. Star winger Leroy Sané has already moved to Bayern Munich, and City will have to replace such fantastic players as David Silva and Sergio Agüero this summer. The club also needs to find a world class centre-back after their defensive shortcomings this season. Liverpool, on the other hand, can look forward to a more settled immediate future as all their stars are on long contracts with exciting young talent coming out of their academy.
However, City’s demolition of Liverpool is a warning that if the champions are to keep up their winning habit, they can’t afford to take their eyes of the ball. This was Liverpool’s heaviest defeat since 9th September 2017, when they lost 5-0 to City. The 2020-21 season begins in a couple of months, and this was a reminder that the only trophy that matters is the next one. City won the night as emphatically as Liverpool won the season.
FIRST PUBLISHED03.07.2020 | 11:00 AM IST