LONDON: Liverpool laid an ever-tighter grip on their first league title in 30 years by dismissing champions and pursuers Manchester City 3:1 at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s men always in control after striking twice in the first 13 minutes amid yet another VAR controversy.
City proved ill-equipped in defence and slipped to fourth in the table, nine points adrift. Liverpool’s nearest pursuers are now Leicester City and Chelsea.
Liverpool’s pre-match status as favourites was enhanced by the line-ups. Manager Jurgen Klopp made only one change compared with the previous weekend’s victory at Aston Villa with Fabinho returning to midfield in place of Adam Lallana. Fabinho had been deliberately omitted at Villa because a fifth yellow card of the season would have meant suspension from the City game.
Pep Guardiola, Klopp’s opposite number, had no such luck. Fernandinho and John Stones was the stop-gap central defensive partnership while the return of Rodri in midfield in place of David Silva signalled a City’s concern about the dangers posed by Liverpool’s free-flowing attack in front of the Kop.
Fabinho’s return proved even more valuable than Liverpool had expected when he thundered them into the lead from 25 metres after six minutes. City were furious with referee Michael Oliver for rejecting their claims seconds earlier for a penalty against Trent Alexander-Arnold for handball.
Seven minutes later and Liverpool were two-up. Andrew Robertson hit a long cross from the left wing, Fernandinho missed with his clearance attempt so Mohamed Salah could beat Angelino to the ball and head home. City’s defensive weaknesses and lack of cover had been laid bare in only 13 minutes.
Fabinho was fortunate to escape a yellow card for tripping Ilkay Gundogan as City sought a route back into the game. Sergio Aguero saw a shot was ushed to safely by Alisson and a cross-shot from Angelino was deflected for a corner.
Yet it was Liverpool who came closest to the next goal when Bravo leaped right to save from Salah after Kyle Walker was guilty of another defensive slip.
Seven minutes into the second half and the game appeared all over as Jordan Henderson crossed from the right and Sadio Mane, at far post, squeezed a header between Bravo and the post.
Guardiola, in search of solutions, brought on Gabriel Jesus in place of Aguero who thus completed 782 minutes’ football at Anfield without ever scoring a goal. He had barely taken his place on the bench when Bernardo Silva pulled one goal back after a left-wing cross from Angelino.
Liverpool protested in vain for a foul in the build-up and then it was City’s turn to rage after referee Oliver rejected another handball claim against Alexander-Arnold.