Manchester City made a major statement of intent at the home of one of their closest rivals for the Premier League title. Pep Guardiola's side registered an emphatic 4-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
With neither side willing to commit too much too soon, the highlight of a cagey first half came in the 37th minute when Gundogan sent a penalty high over the bar, after Sterling had been clumsily brought down in the box by Fabinho.
However, the German made amends for his error four minutes into the second half. Gundogan prodded home the rebound after Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson saved Foden’s shot.
Liverpool were then awarded a penalty of their own as Ruben Dias tugged back Salah in the penalty area. The Egyptian made no mistake with his spot-kick as he brought his side back on level terms just after the hour mark.
Liverpool’s equalizer seemed to spur Manchester City on, and they re-took the lead 10 minutes later. Foden pounced on a botched clearance from Alisson and set up Gundogan to bag his brace.
Alisson’s night went from bad to worse in the 76th minute. Another one of his misplaced passes was picked off by Bernardo Silva, who dinked the ball across goal for Sterling to head home into an unguarded net.
Foden then secured the three points in the 83rd minute, cutting in from the right before rifling a powerful left-footed effort past Alisson into the roof of the net.
The win sees City move five points clear of Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand over their neighbors. On the other hand, fourth-placed Liverpool are yet to win a home game in 2021.
On that note, here are the five major talking points from what could turn out to be a title-deciding fixture between Manchester City and Liverpool at Anfield.
#1 Manchester City’s abysmal penalty record against Liverpool continues
Most teams would be happy to receive a penalty at any point when playing against Liverpool. But Manchester City might beg to differ, as Ilkay Gundogan’s first-half penalty miss was the third time in recent memory that the Cityzens had missed from 12 yards against this particular opposition.
What makes this repeat occurrence even more bizarre is the fact that not only have the misses have come from a different player on each occasion, but all three spot-kicks have also missed the target completely.
Gundogan’s effort, which went flying over the crossbar into the Kop, joined Riyad Mahrez’s similarly lofted penalty against Liverpool from November 2018. It also slotted alongside Kevin De Bruyne’s off-target effort against the Reds earlier on in the season.
In fact, the missed opportunity puts City on level terms with Fulham in terms of penalties missed this season, with Raheem Sterling having blazed over against Brighton in addition to Manchester City’s twin misses against Liverpool.
Given their wretched form when it comes to spot-kicks, Pep Guardiola and his men might consider spending extra time working on their penalties on the training ground. Such misses might prove to be crucial later on in the season.
#2 A battle of two completely contrasting central defensive partnerships
Both Liverpool and Manchester City have seen their central defenders come under the spotlight over the course of this season, albeit for drastically different reasons.
While Liverpool have keenly felt the long-term absence of their key central defenders this season, Manchester City’s newly-formed central defensive pairing of Ruben Dias and John Stones has earned high praise from all parts.
And so, while Manchester City came into this fixture on the back of seven straight clean sheets in the league - thanks to their near-impregnable backline - Liverpool were forced to field two converted central midfielders at the heart of their defense.
With defensive reinforcements brought in over the January transfer window, Jurgen Klopp will be looking to integrate them into the starting lineup as soon as possible and quickly reinstate Henderson and Fabinho in midfield. This can help Liverpool begin a return to normalcy.