Premier League: Manchester City beat Liverpool 4-1 – Sport

Erling Haaland celebrated his team’s goals as brilliantly as if he had scored for Manchester City himself. Almost uninhibited, the goalscorer jumped up and down and hugged his father – but not on the field, but in the stands. A hip injury sustained in the cup two weeks ago is currently preventing the Norwegian from playing.

He had already missed the international matches because of this, and now he was watching the top game in the Premier League against Liverpool FC as a spectator. And he saw that his team delivered their best performance of the season so far just without him. Unlike in the previous games, in which Haaland made all the headlines with his remarkable goal quota, the permanent champion City shone again as a unit, as was usual until Haaland’s move in the summer of 2022. In particular, the important attacking midfielders, captain Ilkay Gündogan and Kevin De Bruyne, came up trumps, both of whom scored at City’s sometimes high-class 4-1 (1-1) over Liverpool – just like Julián Álvarez, who replaced Haaland in attack.

With this exclamation mark at the beginning of the last part of the season, Manchester City underlined their own ambitions for the fifth championship in six seasons in the title duel with Arsenal, only opponent Liverpool broke the series in 2020. The majority of the spectators were already dancing in the stands the so-called Poznań, a form of cheering in which fans turn with their backs to the field and hook each other’s shoulders to jump in place.

Coach Pep Guardiola was equally euphoric about his 100th Premier League home win: After every goal he turned to the fans, raised his arms and kissed his friends in the audience several times. He hadn’t been seen so exhilarated this season, which was probably due to the fact that his team was only now playing football as one. At the interim equalizer, the Catalan even jumped so high that he was shocked when he landed because Liverpool’s substitute Tsimikas was suddenly standing in front of him.

However, City’s runaway victory was greatly aided by Liverpool collapsing in the second half – as they did in the 5-0 loss to City at the same spot in September 2017 when Sadio Mané received an early red card. It took just 52 seconds after the restart for City to take a 2-1 lead thanks to brilliant playmaker De Bruyne. Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp had probably sent his eleven out of the cabin extra early to avoid conceding a goal just as early – because that had happened so often this damned season. As a reaction to the almost defenseless conceded goal, Klopp showed his team the windshield wiper with both hands. As if he wanted to ask if his players were even present.

Disappointment despite the lead: Jürgen Klopp’s team was finally cleverly outplayed by Manchester City.

(Photo: Carl Recine/Reuters)

Because they didn’t look like that in this game scene or in City’s subsequent hits by Gündogan (53rd) and Jack Grealish (74th). Klopp then admitted that his team was “lucky” that City was “not in a greedy mood”. Once again, struggling Liverpool couldn’t recover from a setback during a match – which means a bad start for the ambitions to intercept at least Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United for the renewed Champions League qualification in the next few weeks.

Liverpool surprises, City relies on patience – and scores four times after going behind

The game got off to a great start for Liverpool. Unlike before, it was not Guardiola who surprised with a tactical move this time, but Klopp. Instead of the usual 4-3-3 formation, Liverpool acted in a 4-4-2 with Gakpo and Salah as a double lead. The idea was to man mark both Gündogan and De Bruyne to limit their influence. The idea initially paid off both at the back and at the front: when the opening goal was scored, Salah and Gakpo tore the City central defenders apart with their runs down the center line, allowing Diogo Jota to run into the gap that had been created. Salah effortlessly converted his discard after a wonderful through ball in the 17th minute. In this scene, Liverpool advanced with just three passes from their own penalty area, faster than almost any other team can do.

As expected, City countered this vertical play with a much more patient approach, with countless ball relays and shifts, the Guardiola team was out to find the unmarked player in the build-up game. Once this succeeded, Liverpool’s assignment went haywire with Fabinho and Henderson having to leave their positions. And that meant freedom for Gündogan and De Bruyne. As the equalizer was being scored, Klopp threw his arms over his head ominously because he saw right in front of his coaching zone how Robertson unnecessarily pounced on De Bruyne in addition to Henderson. However, he got the ball in front of both of them and in the 27th minute initiated a goal from Julián Álvarez that was as brilliant as Liverpool had done before. Guardiola explicitly praised the Haaland replacement: Álvarez was “involved in everything”, the first, second and third goal; he was just “so clever” with the ball, an “outstanding player”.

The outstanding performances by De Bruyne, Gündogan and Álvarez in particular gave the impression that they were letting off steam in the absence of the permanent goalscorer Haaland because they now had much more space on the offensive. Otherwise, Haaland, who has barely left the middle of the storm, occupies the space alone. This poses a challenge for Guardiola before the season-defining Champions League quarter-finals against FC Bayern in a week and a half, whether he might even take the undisputed regular player Haaland out of the starting eleven – provided he is fit again by then.

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