Manchester City smash four past Liverpool and give champions knockout blow in title race

Premier League leaders rampant thanks to Gundogan double, plus Sterling and Foden goals, while Reds goalkeeper Alisson suffers nightmare evening

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If Anfield represented the final frontier for Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, they have conquered it and, in the process, probably knocked the champions out of the title race.

City’s first win at Anfield since 2003 puts them 10 points ahead of Liverpool and extended Jurgen Klopp’s 2021 troubles at home. After going 68 league games undefeated on their own turf, Liverpool have now lost three in a row, the second best run in their history giving way to the worst since 1963.

Ilkay Gundogan assumes the mantle Nicolas Anelka had for almost two decades, of being the last City player to score a winning brace at Anfield.

It meant Klopp was defeated by the man who scored for him in the 2013 Champions League final but who has been transformed into a talismanic figure for Guardiola.

It amounted to a cathartic triumph for Gundogan himself. City have a habit of missing penalties against Liverpool.

Riyad Mahrez did two years ago, Kevin de Bruyne three months ago. Gundogan followed suit but a man who has discovered a goalscoring streak responded with two second-half goals.

There was a less welcome double for Alisson Becker, however, who conjured costly mistakes in quick succession to turn the game City's way. Alisson’s meltdown summed up the way Liverpool’s challenge has disintegrated in the last month. City joined Burnley and Brighton in winning at fortress Anfield.

First a goalkeeper whose distribution is normally terrific scuffed two kicks in a row. The second went to Phil Foden, who darted past Jordan Henderson and centred for Gundogan's second.

Then came another poor kick. Bernardo Silva responded by dinking a centre over the Brazilian. Raheem Sterling stooped to head in his 100th goal for Guardiola and his first as a visiting player at Anfield.

Sterling was terrific, excelling at a ground where he is usually barracked by the fans who used to serenade him. So was Foden, whose selection as a false nine was fully justified by a wonderful performance.

City did not start with a specialist striker or Liverpool with a specialist centre-back but Foden won a duel of makeshifts against Fabinho and Jordan Henderson. He capped victory with a ferocious finish from an acute angle. It was a wonderful end for City.

Liverpool often make flying starts against City. Perhaps their lack of form was a reason why they were more subdued until Trent Alexander-Arnold made a forceful, skilful run and Sadio Mane headed over. Liverpool’s injury problems had appeared to ease with Mane, Fabinho and Alisson back but it was to prove an unhappy return for the two Brazilians.

When Sterling skipped past Trent Alexander-Arnold, he was caught by Fabinho's trailing leg. Penalty, but Gundogan skied it into the Kop. Yet Sterling’s second incisive break of the afternoon brought the breakthrough. He found Foden who had a shot saved by Alisson but Gundogan converted the rebound. That was his eighth goal in 11 games and a ninth was to follow.

Before then, Liverpool got a leveller and a brief glimpse of hope. It came from a rare mistake from Ruben Dias, caught the wrong side of Mohamed Salah and tugging him back. The Egyptian had converted a penalty emphatically in November and did so again in the rematch.

Remarkably, it was only the second goal City have conceded with the Portuguese and John Stones on the pitch together.

City’s run of clean sheets ended but not their sequence of victories, which has now reached 14. Guardiola’s second-half gambit of pushing Silva further forward to join Foden in attack was justified. The Englishman delivered a coming-of-age performance, his team a statement result.