Man City gives Liverpool guard of honor, 4-star thumping
Raheem Sterling scored, won a penalty, and forced an own goal out of his former side as Manchester City gave Liverpool a guard of honor and then battered the newly-crowned champions 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.
Kevin De Bruyne had a goal and an assist to move within three assists of equalling Thierry Henry’s PL single-season record for assists (20). It would’ve been two but Sterling’s second goal was changed to an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain own goal.
Phil Foden scored City’s other goal and Riyad Mahrez has a stoppage-time fifth chalked off by VAR under questionable circumstances. The runners-up are 20 points back of Liverpool with six matches left each.
The four goals allowed were the most by Liverpool in a Premier League game since an Oct. 2017 loss at Tottenham.
Three things we learned
1. Weirdest... guard of honor... ever: Man City gave the new Premier League champions a richly-deserved guard of honor, as the champs walked onto the pitch between two lines of applauding runners-up. The empty stands helped deliver an extremely awkward first welcome for the new kings of England.
2. Sterling cuts up the champs: Ex-Liverpool star Sterling twice got the better of Joe Gomez in the first half. The first time was an unholy battle in the box where the winger didn’t go down after a few legit fouls before hitting the deck under a lesser shove. De Bruyne fooled Alisson Becker and converted his penalty just before the first half water break.
The second goal was class even if his first touch to fool the center back was a little heavy before slotting past Alisson. HIs third went down as Alexander-Arnold own goal but was headed home anyway.
3. Hangover, Pt. IV? Liverpool did not have its finishing boots or foreheads in the first half-hour despite having a good amount of dangerous chances, so their performance coming out of the gates makes it hard to put the blowout down to mentality. Although maybe the club’s perpetual drive to become a title-winner took a that will take a minute to reclaim.
Regardless, when we wrote about the “What now?” of post-title Liverpool, we pointed out that the Reds’ biggest obstacle to boasting the best league season of all-time is what City did two seasons ago.
In 2017-18, City lost twice and drew four times, collecting 100 points while scoring 106 goals with a plus-79 goal differential. The Reds are now at two losses and two draws with six to play, sitting on 70 goals and a plus-46 GD.
Still the champions, though, and you wouldn’t put it past them to score six-a-game for a while.
Man of the Match (and Player of the Year)
De Bruyne. He’s just incredible, one of only five players to score 10-plus goals and 10-plus assists across Europe’s top five leagues (Jadon Sancho, Lionel Messi, Alassane Plea, Serge Gnabry).
Man City - Liverpool recap
Gabriel Jesus was offside when he potted a third-minute breakaway.
Mohamed Salah could’ve had it 1-0 at the other end but his less-than-ideal take was collected by Ederson.
Liverpool put the first two shots on target before Kevin De Bruyne led a charge that finished with a blocked shot in the Reds’ 18.
The Reds countered through Sadio Mane, but the Senegalese sensation’s shot spun wide.
Salah then beat Ederson but not the goal post as Liverpool kept knocking at the door.
De Bruyne might’ve won a penalty off Virgil van Dijk in the 23rd minute, but referee Anthony Taylor blew his whistle and gave a foul in the run-up.
Sterling then did win a penalty off Joe Gomez in a minuscule bit of revenge for their early season dust-up(s).
Ederson deployed his best Manuel Neuer in racing well outside the 18 to deny Salah with a slide before clearing the danger with a second touch.
Sterling made it 2-0 on a Phil Foden-led rush, beating Gomez and then Alisson with a cool finish despite a tough first touch.
Foden delivered a goal of his own before halftime to make it 3-0, a tremendous 1-2 with De Bruyne to put the Belgian within three of Thierry Henry’s single-season assist record.
[ MORE: Premier League stats ]
Jesus had a 49th-minute chance to provide City’s fourth but sputtered his shot to a stooping Alisson. Then Sterling drove the middle before taking a shot that was deflected just wide of the far post.
De Bruyne took an incredible first-touch pass and neatly had another assist when he found a shoved Foden for a missed effort.
Mane won a free kick on the edge of the 18 in the 56th as Liverpool hoped for a penalty.
Instead, City scored again when De Bruyne cued up Sterling for a shot that was slid into the Liverpool goal by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It should’ve been 5-0 when Mahrez beat Alisson in stoppage time, but the ball hit Foden’s arm in the build-up when Fabinho dragged the City man to the turf.