It was tipped to be the clash of the season thus far- end to end, pulsating, and exhilarating action. It ended with people pondering when the last time a game that was supposed to be on a knife edge- finished so one sided.
If ever Jürgen Klopp needed reminding that Ragnar Klavan , Alberto Moreno and Simon Mignolet should not be in the starting eleven for the Reds- Saturday’s 5-0 drubbing courtesy of Manchester City was the perfect wake up call.
Liverpool showed once more their unpredictable nature, as they followed up their 4-0 hammering of Arsenal, with themselves falling victim to a demolition job.
City, on the other hand, showcased the Pep Guardiola way of playing: Precise, persistent, pragmatic and powerful.
The Sky Blues took no prisoners as they swept aside a bewildered Liverpool.
Doubles from Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane , accompanied by a solitary Sergio Aguero goal sealed the win for the home side.
But, things could have been all so different…
The Reds’ star man and Premier League player of the month for August, Sadio Mane, saw red in the 37th minute, following a 50/50 collision with City’s keeper, Ederson.
The Brazilian shot-stopper came surging out of goal, and was met with a right boot to the face from the jet heeled Senegalese winger who was arriving on the scene.
Mane made a genuine attempt to play the ball, and was only chasing down a hopeful pass from defence from Joel Matip. The winger attempted to lob over Ederson, but conversely, left the keeper down and out; requiring a stretcher to leave the pitch.
Jon Moss, who was officiating the match was quick to brandish the card, a decision that prompted mass applause from the home supporters.
It can be said, Mane was dangerous with the height of his foot and the force he was travelling at- however, there was no malice or intent whatsoever, simply a moment where both keeper and forward had to challenge for.
Liverpool didn’t recover from this, and fell to pieces for the remainder of the match.
Nonetheless, take nothing away from Guardiola’s side who put the Reds to the sword and brought Klopp and his side down to reality, away from the dizzy heights reached after a dismantlement of Arsenal.
The away side actually started the better of the two sides, creating a bundle of chances in the opening 20 minutes. But, a lack of end product made the Reds rue their missed opportunities.
Mohamed Salah was the shining light in the team, as he engineered space for himself to let loose on a few occasions. The Egyptian lacked efficiency, however, and was then shown exactly what it looks like.
Aguero, the man to put things into perspective for Salah- netting instantaneously.
The Argentine was played through on goal in acres of space, thanks to a pass from Kevin De Bruyne which carved open the Liverpool defence. Motionless they stood , only able to watch in awe as Aguero rounded Mignolet in goal and duly tucked home.
This goal broke a Premier League record, as well as matching another. He equalled Thierry Henry’s feat of scoring in six successive home games against the same team, and also etched his name in the Premier League history books , as 194 league goals now makes him the highest ever scoring non European player in the modern era.
City were two to the good on the stroke of half time- De Bruyne, again at the heart of things, as he found the head of youngster Gabriel Jesus, who nodded home expertly.
Things only got worse in the second half for the visitors.
The home side headed out into the pitch, hungry for more. While, watching the game; it seemed as if Liverpool were yet to enter the fray- as the players out on the pitch did not resemble that of Jürgen Klopp’s usual resilient and courageous team.
It was 3-0 only ten minutes after the interval. At this stage, it was no longer a case of whether the away side could get back into the affair and more of ” how many more goals will they concede?”
Jesus and Aguero combined in style- Aguero, goal scorer of the first; turned provider. He laid off for the Brazilian to pocket his second goal of the day.
The Reds shutdown and needed to reboot- City were fully charged, electric, and showed no signs of halting.
Substitute, Leroy Sane, opened his goal scoring account for the season and made an instant impact. He netted two goals in quick succession to stifle Liverpool.
His opener, a smart finish; tucked away neatly. A low driven cross from the left flank found its way to the young German, who slotted home into the bottom left corner.
The goal that followed was of the highest calibre.
As Mignolet stood between the sticks, eying Sane; who was 25 yards from goal, he was probably telling himself things couldn’t get any worse.
They could- and quite considerably.
The former Schalke man audaciously cannoned a shot from outside the box. His dipping effort left Mignolet clutching thin air, only able to watch the ball crash into the top left corner- as the Belgian fell to the ground, along with Liverpool’s pride.
It was most certainly an afternoon to forget for Klopp and his side- but one to cherish for Guardiola.
This marked City’s first win over Liverpool in three years.
Since the former Borussia Dortmund manager took charge of Liverpool he has boasted an excellent record against the top six in the league- failing to lose a game home and away to the Premier League’s elite last campaign.
Last season’s record of remaining unbeaten in the heavyweight clashes was monumentally ended this campaign, after a humiliating and humbling defeat, which was City’s biggest win over the Reds since 1937.
The most surprising thing of yesterday’s result was not so much how well City played, but how drastically Liverpool fell apart. They crumbled, in a similar fashion that Arsenal have become so accustomed to doing against top opposition in recent times.
This is not something the Reds do, It’s usually quite the opposite- Istanbul- no introduction required, Dortmund ( Europa League 15/16), and West Ham ( FA Cup final 2006) to name but a few.
The never say die attitude is something that Klopp and the club as a whole personifies, this is what makes this defeat somewhat of an anomaly.
Yes, Mane’s departure made life almightily challenging and created an uphill task – but, even so, this kind of demise is still not acceptable.
Credit where credits due, though- City were excellent.
Their attack was frightening and caused chaos. This will give Guardiola confidence going forward, especially after being held at home last time out, to Everton.
The Citizens remain firm favourites for the title this season- and if yesterday’s spectacle is anything to go by, you would feel comfortable putting your money where your mouth is, tipping them for glory.
Virgil Van Dijk should have been recruited for Liverpool to fix their defensive incapabilities which were exploited, yet again. If Klopp wants to be serious about challenging for titles, he needs to address an issue sat in plain sight.
Consistency is the other downfall for the Merseysiders. There is no other side like the Reds; who can inflict a 4-0 hammering and then be on the receiving end the following match.
There appears to be no middle ground, no in-between average performance- it’s all or nothing . Destroy, or get destroyed. 1-0 or 2-0 score-lines don’t fit Klopp’s heavy metal blueprint. It’s three, four, five, or even six.
You try, or die trying.
The front three of Mane, Salah, and Roberto Firmino- simply devastating. It takes you back to the 13/14 season- where Liverpool’s ideology appeared to be, score as many as you like; we’ll just outscore you. It’s just the defence that lets the side down.
Klopp is perhaps becoming slightly naive at times. He is apprehensive about changing his ways, even when it’s evident in certain games the performance is less heavy metal, and more heavy hearted.
The title race is far from over, as is Liverpool’s calamity defending; and City’s ruthlessness you would assume.
Nothing is guaranteed in this mind boggling league, however.