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Fabinho leaves Manchester City fuming and helps Liverpool go eight points clear

David Hytner at Anfield
@DaveHytner
Sun 10 Nov 2019 18.45 GMT

There had been little more than millimetres in it during the previous two meetings of English football’s current powerhouses. Remember John Stones’s goalline clearance for Manchester City at the Etihad last January in his team’s 2-1 Premier League win or when Kyle Walker did the same at the very end of the Community Shield at the beginning of this season? City would squeak to victory that day on penalties.

Liverpool authored a different story here, one underpinned by ruthless finishing and which came to be coloured by comfort. The much-hyped top-of-the-table collision was to all intents over when Sadio Mané headed Liverpool into a 3-0 lead on 51 minutes and what it all meant bristled with possibility for his team and the club’s fans, who last knew what it felt like to be league champions in 1990.

Liverpool briefly held a 10-point lead over City last December, although that was cut to seven the following day when Pep Guardiola’s team won their game in hand. And so the nine-point advantage which this victory gave to Liverpool felt like new ground – hugely significant new ground.

It remains early days in the title race but nine points in favour of a team that has lost only one league fixture in 18 months – that game at the Etihad – is quite a cushion. Jürgen Klopp said that nobody wanted to be top only in November and the real pressure was yet to come but this was a major statement of intent.

City rallied towards the end when Bernardo Silva arrowed home a shot from Angeliño’s deflected cross and they shouted loudly for a penalty in the 84th minute when Raheem Sterling sent a cross at Trent Alexander-Arnold’s hand from close range.

Guardiola lost himself in fury on the touchline because the Liverpool full-back had got away with something similar at the start of the game. Nobody knows how fine the margins might have been if City had been granted the late penalty or, indeed, the early one and the visitors did have a couple of flickers in the closing stages, when Liverpool looked heavy-legged. Yet Klopp’s team were able to close out the result and he was entitled to say that, until Silva’s goal, it had been Liverpool who were in control.

City had won only once previously at Anfield in 38 years and it felt as though they needed to take at least a draw. But the game moved away from them in the early running after their first penalty appeal was turned down. Silva appeared to handle as he smuggled the ball across but it then flicked off Alexander-Arnold’s outstretched arm, prompting the first outbreak of City frustration.

Their sense of grievance would deepen when Liverpool went ahead 22 seconds later. Mané’s low cross was not cleared with any conviction by Ilkay Gündogan and, with no City challenges coming, Fabinho took a touch and ripped the sweetest of drives past Claudio Bravo from 25 yards.

Liverpool turned the screw and their second goal was created by their marauding full-backs. Alexander-Arnold switched the play from right to left with a 60-yard pass to Andy Robertson, whose cross invited Mohamed Salah to rush in on Angeliño’s blindside. Salah’s header gave Bravo no chance. Was the Liverpool forward offside? VAR said no. It was tight.

Never mind City’s record at Anfield, Guardiola was up against the opponent that, on a statistical level at least, has come to feel like his nemesis. The City manager entered the game having lost seven of 17 to Klopp in all competitions – more than he had against any other rival. How Guardiola set up was always going to be fascinating, after the tweaks that he implemented for the corresponding fixture here last season. For that match in October he ordered his players to slow the tempo, compress the space and the result was a 0-0 stalemate.

City were more proactive here, with Kevin De Bruyne in the No 10 role, and they had a fistful of chances before the interval, none better than the free header that Sterling glanced wide at 1-0. Neither Sergio Agüero nor Stones could get a touch to a tantalising De Bruyne free-kick; Agüero flickered without truly menacing and Angeliño sent a deflected shot against the post on 29 minutes.

Guardiola talked up the personality that his team had showed, how they came to play which, he suggested, nobody else did at Anfield. As for the refereeing decisions, he could not possibly comment. Better for people to “ask Mike Riley and the big bosses,” who understood everything and knew far more. Guardiola was actually asked, at one point, whether he was being sarcastic.

But as City tried to make the game, they invited Liverpool to counter, which tends to be a bad idea. The first half was end to end and Liverpool could point to their own openings. Georginio Wijnaldum was close with a deflected effort; Roberto Firmino worked Bravo after a storming Alexander-Arnold run and Salah also extended the goalkeeper.

City’s patched-up backline was too loose and the manner in which they conceded the third goal illustrated the point. Jordan Henderson was allowed to cross by Gündogan and Angeliño, with Mané being given space beyond the far post by Walker. The header was firm and Bravo could only pat it into the net. City continued to fight, with Sterling increasingly dangerous, but Liverpool had done the damage.

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City: Premier League player ratings

Fabinho dazzles for Liverpool while John Stones struggles in the Manchester City defence

Andy Hunter at Anfield
Sun 10 Nov 2019 20.14 GMT
Last modified on Thu 14 Nov 2019 15.12 GMT

Liverpool 4-3-3
Alisson
Took a few unnecessary risks with his distribution but commanded his area impressively. Made an important save from Aguero although not over-worked. 7

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Fortunate to escape a handball that, if given, could have changed the complexion of the game. The second appeal never was. Brilliant ball to Robertson to instigate the second goal. Struggled against Sterling at times. 7

Dejan Lovren
A few loose clearances could not detract from a strong defensive performance overall. Celebrated one of his own blocks on Sterling like a match-winning goal. 8

Virgil van Dijk
Looked unusually nervous in the very early stages but it did not last. Became increasingly assured and let Agüero know he was in a battle, although City created several chances against him late on. 7

Andy Robertson
His delivery for Salah’s header was absolute perfection. Defensively he also kept Silva at arm’s length for long periods and made several well-timed interceptions in his area. 8

Jordan Henderson
Helped the hosts regain composure after a shaky start with his measured passing. Grew as a threat down the right too and delivered a superb cross for Mane’s goal. 7

Fabinho
His first goal of the season was one to savour, as was another commanding and polished midfield display. A major influence on this team. 8

Georginio Wijnaldum
The midfielder’s accurate and intelligent distribution under pressure helped launch several counter-attacks. Also switched play superbly to increase City’s discomfort. 8

Mohamed Salah
Converted a difficult header with consummate ease and helped set the tempo of Liverpool’s attacks. One of his most destructive displays for a while. 8

Roberto Firmino
Knitted together his team’s attacking play intelligently although not as decisive in the final third as his fellow forwards. Would have been substituted just before Silva’s goal. 7

Sadio Mané
Marked his 100th Premier League start for Liverpool with his 28th goal of the calendar year. Not afraid to help out with the dirty work either. 7

Subs
Milner (for Henderson, 61) 6; Oxlade-Chamberlain (for Firmino, 79) 6; Gomez (for Salah, 87) 5

Manchester City 4-2-3-1
Claudio Bravo
No absolute howlers but doubtful Ederson would have conceded the first or third. 6

Kyle Walker
Berated his defensive colleagues for a lack of fight but, positionally, he needed to use his head more. Liverpool frequently prospered behind him, as did Mane for his goal. 5

John Stones
Easily beaten in the build-up to the opener but was not only poor in his defensive duties. The polished touches have gone too and so has his confidence. 5

Fernandinho
Fought manfully and produced a fine challenge to prevent Salah escaping for a third. Unable to cut out Robertson’s brilliant cross for the Egyptian’s header though. 6

Angeliño
Lost track of Salah for Liverpool’s second goal and endured a difficult first half against his marker. Improved after the interval, however, and set up Silva’s consolation. 6

Rodri
A quiet return to the side after injury. Lost several individual battles‚ including an aerial duel with Mane at one point ‚ and unable to halt Liverpool on the counter attack. 6

Ilkay Gundogan
His sharp passing ensured City kept the pressure on but failed miserably in his defensive duties with a weak clearance and challenge for Liverpool’s first and third respectively. 5

Bernardo Silva
Took his consolation crisply and was integral to City’s strong start although creatively he struggled to deliver an end product from several excellent positions. 7

Kevin De Bruyne
City’s most threatening player in the first half and must have despaired at the failure of Agüero and Sterling to capitalise on his invitations. Could not have done more. 8

Raheem Sterling
Booed as always on his return to Anfield but the crowd didn’t get to him on this occasion. Missed chances and the referee did, though. Never gave up but not his day. 8

Sergio Agüero
Another Anfield visit to forget for the usually ruthless Argentina international on his 250th Premier League appearance. Wasted several clear chances to score his first goal on this ground and rightly replaced. 5

Subs Jesus (for Agüero, 71) 6

Copyright- The Guardian

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