MANCHESTER, England (AP) — As they stepped onto the pitch, Liverpool’s players were given a guard of honor from Manchester City. It was the last time they looked like Premier League champions at the Etihad Stadium.
Exactly a week after Liverpool’s 30-year English title drought ended, the dethroned champions made sure there was a comedown from the partying as City ran over the visitors in a 4-0 win.
Consider it a message from Pep Guardiola’s side.
”Next season started today,” said City forward Raheem Sterling, who has won the Premier League twice since leaving Liverpool five years ago, ”and we did well.”
The slack defending and lack of sharpness from Liverpool was perhaps forgivable from players who had spent the previous 31 rounds establishing an unprecedented 23-point lead to become England’s earliest champions.
But such an emphatic loss is not how Juergen Klopp wanted to close out such a memorable season. Especially when Liverpool still has enough games to overhaul City’s record 100-point haul from 2017-18.
It was a night to forget for so many Liverpool players — particularly Joe Gomez, who dragged Sterling down to concede a penalty converted by Kevin De Bruyne in the 25th minute.
De Bruyne and Phil Foden helped City stylishly waltz through Liverpool and show how the title can be reclaimed next season.
Receiving a pass from Foden, Sterling took the ball past Gomez before knocking in City’s second in the 35th minute. Sterling and Gomez reunited in a Premier League match for the first time since Liverpool’s victory over City at Anfield in November that was followed the next day by a training camp altercation while they were on England duty.
Gomez was substituted at halftime.
Before the break, City still had time to produce a third.
The technique in the buildup would have had fans on their feet — if any were allowed in the stadium.
Instead fewer than 300 people inside the Etihad could savor the counterattack that was capped by Foden playing a one-two with De Bruyne before raising the ball into the net past Alisson.
”This is a team that is evolving and changing – you can see the maturity Phil is playing with,” Sterling said. ”I think in the future we have some great players.”
It summed up Liverpool’s night that the fourth goal came from an own goal after another blistering City attacking move. De Bruyne picked out Sterling who turned Andrew Robertson and sent in a shot that was diverted into his own net by Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain.
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