LONDON: The statistics tell the tale of Liverpool’s first home defeat by Manchester City in 13 years. The Premier League champions have not won at Anfield since before Christmas, trail their great rivals by 10 points and have lost three times at home in a row in league competition for the first time since September 1963.

Ilkay Gundogan struck two of the goals which inspired City’s 4-1 victory and lifted them five points clear of neighbours United with a game in hand at the top of the table. Gundogan thus made amends for missing a first-half penalty. Raheem Sterling and the brilliant Phil Foden completed the rout.

Liverpool, whose consolation goal was a Mo Salah penalty, were badly betrayed by goalkeeper Alisson who gave away two goals with a nightmare display of Karius proportions.

The lead-up to the match featured a war of words between managers Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

Klopp had claimed, incorrectly, that City had benefited from having a two-week break because of Covid cases among their players and support staff. He pointed to fixtures pressure as having contributed to the injuries and fatigue which saw a seven-point gap separate the teams at kickoff. All three senior central defenders – Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, will miss the rest of the season.

Guardiola responded that Klopp was only looking for excuses. City have missed key men such as Kevin de Bruyne recently and Sergio Aguero for most of the season. Guardiola said: “I’m surprised. I didn’t think Jurgen was that kind of manager. I tell my players that excuses are the worst things in the world because when you find excuses then you cannot move forward.”

City had not won at Anfield since 2008 but kicked off after a remarkable run of 13 victories in all competitions including nine in the league. Liverpool, by contrast, were desperate to avoid a third successive home defeat.

Alisson, Fabinho and Sadio Mane all returned to Klopp’s starting line-up while City continued to play without a recognised centre-forward. Riyad Mahrez, Foden and Sterling formed their nominal front three.

Liverpool’s eagerness to regain the aggression missing their recent matches was evident from the outset. Thiago Alcantara brought down Ilkay Gundogan in only the second minute and the City midfielder continued only after lengthy treatment to a bruised ankle.

City’s defensive partnership of John Stones and Ruben Dias has been outstanding but Liverpool fund a way through in the 24th minute. Trent Alexander-Arnold outpaced City on the Liverpool right wing and produced a perfect cross only for Mane to head over the bar from close range. Next Roberto Firmino had a shot saved for a corner by Ederson.

Just as Liverpool were starting to impose their command on the match so City broke away in the 36th minute and were awarded a penalty. Fabinho tripped Sterling but Gundogan pulled his kick high over the bar. Guardiola flapped his arms in frustration.

Gundogan made amends four minutes into the second half. Sterling slalomed in from the left, Foden’s shot was only parried by Alisson and Gundogan, this time, made no mistake.

Liverpool equalised in the 63rd minute from a penalty of their own. Ruben Dias tripped Mo Salah and the league’s leading scorer duly converted the penalty for his 16th goal of the season. The goal maintained his 100pc record of seven penalties, two of them against City.

Stones had a goal disallowed for offside in the 70th minute but City did regain the lead three minutes later. Alisson kicked two poor clearances in quick succession and Foden punished him by seizing possession and providing the assist for Gundogan’s second goal.

Five more minutes and Alisson was to blame agan. He passed the ball straight out to Bernardo Silva and Sterling dived forward to head City’s third. As Liverpool collapsed, so Foden thrashed their fourth goal.

Liverpool must worry now not about defending the title but even finishing in the top four.

Kane conquers

Harry Kane means everything to Tottenham. His surprisingly quick speedy return from injury brought a 2-0 win over struggling West Bromwich which ended Spurs’ three-game losing league run. Kane opened the scoring with 13th league goal – the same total as strike partner Heung-min Son who scored the second goal four minutes later.

Tottenham have won 56pc of Premier League games with him but only 41pc without him. Their average goals-per-game drops from 1.9 to 1.2 with him out of the side.#

Chelsea moved up to fifth with a 2-1 win over Sheffield United.