Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool clear title favourites after crushing win over Manchester City
Fabinho, Salah and Mane score in clinical 3-1 win at Anfield
The lyrics to You’ll Never Walk Alone may invoke a golden sky, but Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp find themselves on cloud nine.
They are undoubtedly favourites in the title race now, defeating the defending champions Manchester City 3-1 to go eight points clear.
For Klopp, it was an unrivalled ninth triumph against Pep Guardiola, spread over two clubs, a total no other manager can remotely approach.
Fabinho, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane scored to give Liverpool a 20th win in 21 league games and extend City’s hoodoo at a ground where they have not tasted victory in 19 attempts.
Liverpool played with pace and penetration, intensity and inspiration.
Their goals each contained something memorable in creation or execution. Theirs was the display of champions.
They had terrific performances across the pitch, from the colossal Virgil van Dijk at the back to the flying machines Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson on the flanks, through the forceful Fabinho in midfield to their formidable front three.
They demonstrated that, as City know to their cost, they can score in devastating bursts. With momentum, they can feel unstoppable.
They scored three goals in nine and 19 minutes in matches two seasons ago. They got two in eight first-half minutes yesterday.
It made for a chastening first league match in 18 months for Claudio Bravo. Whether the injured Ederson would have stopped any of the goals is a moot point but his Chilean deputy was beaten three times.
Fast and furious, open and stretched, it was clear this was different to last season’s clash. Liverpool took advantage. City began the better but were soon two goals adrift.
Fabinho has established himself as the division’s foremost defensive midfielder. He showed another side to his game with a belated first goal of 2019, latching on to Ilkay Gundogan’s clearance and unleashed a superb shot from 25 yards.
City’s complaints were not about the purity of the strike, but that the ball had hit Alexander-Arnold in the Liverpool box 22 seconds earlier, looping up off Bernardo Silva as Sergio Aguero claimed a penalty.
Each had inadvertently handled and VAR did not chalk the goal off.
Then Robertson curled in a delightful cross, Salah met it without breaking stride, heading the ball past Bravo.
The Egyptian, who was fractionally onside, had escaped behind Angelino, a surprise choice in place of Benjamin Mendy.
Thereafter, Liverpool surged forward on a series of attacks. Gini Wijnaldum shot wide. Dejan Lovren headed Robertson’s corner past the post. Bravo denied Roberto Firmino. The third goal nevertheless arrived.
Mane extended his golden run with an 18th goal in as many league games at Anfield by heading it in at the far post, Bravo’s despairing touch not enough to prevent it entering the net.
But the deep cross came from Jordan Henderson, vindicating Klopp. His only real selection dilemma came in midfield where he chose his captain ahead of the in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
For City, a third defeat of the season at least brought a first goal in three Anfield visits, and although Liverpool wobbled after Silva’s low drive, it was only a consolation strike. But City’s efforts were unstinting and they had the chance to score several goals.
The relentless Raheem Sterling was booed, although with less vitriol than on some of his earlier visits to his former home.
He came close to a first goal at Anfield in City colours, heading Kevin de Bruyne’s free kick just wide.
Aguero’s Anfield drought continued despite an effort that Alisson saved well and a shot that whistled past the far post.
It felt inevitable that the defence-splitting pass to release him came from De Bruyne.
The Belgian was excellent, bringing drive as well as quality, teasing set-pieces and incisive passes. He almost added to his litany of assists this season.
He was also the meat in the sandwich, providing a deft touch in the middle of a one-two when Angelino broke to prod a shot against the post.
The returning Rodri, rushed back after two and a half weeks on the sidelines, was booked for dissent when Sterling was denied a penalty for a nudge by Mane.
Referee Michael Oliver ruled against Sterling again when he claimed Alexander-Arnold had handled. It was a decision that did not go City’s way.
They retrieved a seven-point deficit to overhaul Liverpool last season. Their task looks still tougher now.
Updated: November 10, 2019 11:35 PM