Manchester, England, Jul 2 (efe-epa).- Manchester City trounced Liverpool 4-0 here Thursday on the strength of three first-half goals, handing the 2019-2020 Premier League champions just their second league loss of the season.
There was little on the line after the Reds wrapped up their first English-league title in 30 years last week, although their defeat at an empty Etihad Stadium has slowed their push to equal or surpass the Citizens’ record tally of 100 points in a single season (2017-2018).
Man City, who narrowly beat out Liverpool for the title last season, gave their rivals a guard of honor prior to the start of the contest, forming a corridor for the champs and applauding them as they took the field.
The visitors then nearly grabbed an early lead courtesy of Egyptian superstar Mohamed Salah, who came close on one dangerous attempt from the edge of the area before striking the woodwork with a shot in the 19th minute.
But the Manchester club proceeded to seize full control shortly afterward by taking advantage of some poor defending by Joe Gomez, who clumsily fouled Raheem Sterling inside the penalty box in the 24th minute.
Moments later, Belgian superstar Kevin De Bruyne converted from the spot to give the home side the lead.
Sterling then gave the hosts a 2-0 advantage 10 minutes later on a well-executed counter-attack in which David Silva, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden all had touches before the English winger scored past Alisson.
More outstanding teamwork led to the third goal, this time with Foden and De Bruyne combining on an expert give-and-go before the 20-year-old Englishman slotted the ball into the upper part of the goal just before the intermission.
The second half was less eventful, although Sterling received an outstanding pass from De Bruyne in the 66th minute, maneuvered around defender Andrew Robertson and fired a low shot toward the far post that Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain inadvertently deflected into the back of the net for an own-goal.
“I’m so delighted. Congratulations to the team for beating the champions. To beat them 4-0, the chances we create, the way we defend … It’s three more points to help us,” Man City head coach Pep Guardiola was quoted as saying on the team’s website.
With the win, Manchester City (66 points) further solidified their hold on second place, although they are banned from any European play for the next two seasons (pending the results of an appeal) for violations of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations.
Liverpool (86 points), meanwhile, suffered a setback in their bid to set the Premier League points record.
They now need to tally 15 points over their final six games to eclipse Man City’s mark.
Earlier Thursday, Sheffield United vaulted into seventh place with their first victory since the re-start, which came at the expense of the European ambitions of Tottenham Hotspur, who dropped to ninth.
The London side delivered an uninspired effort against the Blades, the Cinderella team of the 2019-2020 Premier League season.
Newly promoted Sheffield started the campaign on almost everybody’s list of teams most likely to be relegated. Instead, they sit ahead of Spurs and Arsenal and trail Manchester United by just 5 points.
Spurs had most of the ball, but the hosts took the lead in the 31st minute courtesy of Sander Berge.
Tottenham appeared to equalize two minutes later. The ball rolled to Harry Kane after teammate Lucas Moura tumbled to the ground and the striker bested United goalkeeper Dean Henderson.
Spurs then watched in disbelief as the goal was disallowed after a VAR review detected that Moura inadvertently touched the ball with his arm as he was falling.
The decision drew a vigorous protest from Spurs coach Jose Mourinho and left his men demoralized.