De Bruyne and Grealish dazzle as City demolish Liverpool

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De Bruyne and Grealish dazzle as City demolish Liverpool

ETIHAD STADIUM, MANCHESTER — Second-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Jack Grealish gave Manchester City a dominant 4-1 win over Liverpool to keep the pressure on Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions went into the game eight points behind Mikel Arteta’s side and their title hopes appeared to suffer a significant blow when Mohamed Salah scored for the fourth time in as many matches against City this season.

The hosts were without Erling Haaland due to a groin injury, but his replacement Julian Alvarez poached the equaliser from Jack Grealish’s cross.

City caught their visitors cold at the start of the second half and further close-range finishes from De Bruyne and Gundogan gave them breathing space. De Bruyne then teed up Grealish 16 minutes from time for the England international to crown a magnificent display.

Goals:

LIV — Mohamed Salah (Diogo Jota) — 17th minute.MCI — Julian Alvarez (Jack Grealish) — 27th minute.MCI — Kevin De Bruyne (Riyad Mahrez) — 47th minute.MCI — Ilkay Gundogan — 53rd minute.MCI — Jack Grealish (Kevin De Bruyne) — 74th minute.

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Despite Haaland’s absence, City began in a confident and smooth fashion, but the opener was scored by the visitors against the run of play. Trent Alexander-Arnold, who would endure a torrid outing chasing after Grealish, launched a ball behind City’s high line. Diogo Jota was held up by Manuel Akanji before finding Salah to rifle home.

The sort of wonderful team move with which City would pepper the afternoon brought their equaliser. Riyad Mahrez darted in from the right and found Gundogan, who helped the ball on for Grealish to leave Alvarez with a tap-in for his 13th goal of the season.

Erling Haaland enjoyed that Man City equalizer ✨Can you tell? 🤣 pic.twitter.com/o2RPGoV0nl— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball)

The game remained on a knife-edge at the break, but City blew the whole thing apart within two minutes of the restart. It was a very Liverpool goal that did it, with a quick switch of play sending Mahrez streaming down the right. His low cross evaded an overworked Alisson and De Bruyne finished to spark bedlam in the Etihad.

City applied suffocating and relentless pressure and further defensive malfunctions from Liverpool felt inevitable. Alvarez engineered some space in the box to have a left-footed shot that Alexander-Arnold blocked. Gundogan, whose goals broke Liverpool hearts on the final day of last season, took a touch and dispatched the rebound.

Grealish drew a full-stretch save from Alisson, but got the goal his endeavours deserved when he slipped De Bruyne in behind Alexander-Arnold and ran free to convert the return pass.

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Just as the final few members of City’s victorious squad were wrapping up their post-match media duties, their former teammate Gabriel Jesus gave Arsenal the lead against Leeds from the penalty spot. The Gunners are in no mood to let go of their lead and in a couple of weeks they will have the chance to extend their advantage further as City take on Sheffield United in the FA Cup semifinals.

"He's playing for World Cup champions Argentina next to Messi for a reason!!" 🇦🇷Pep Guardiola can't hold back his praise for his front line of Julian Alvarez, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez after 4-1 win over Liverpool! 🙌🎙️ @TheDesKelly pic.twitter.com/0pXUvWFFsH— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball)

That means City are likely to be playing catchup in terms of points and games in hand even if they win the crunch clash between the top two at the Etihad Stadium on April 26. They might just run out of road. But this was probably the finest performance Pep Guardiola’s team have produced this season and without absentees Haaland and Phil Foden to boot. De Bruyne, Grealish, Gundogan and Mahrez all operating in such sparkling form, with Rodri directing traffic expertly alongside John Stones at the base of the midfield was something to behold.

Since demolishing Manchester United 7-0, Liverpool have played three and lost three in all competitions. Salah’s opening goal on Saturday is the only time they have found the net during this latest slump. Ten of the starting XI that beat United started against City, with Jota in for Darwin Nunez as the only alteration. It’s been a maddening campaign for Liverpool this season and Jurgen Klopp was clearly somewhere close to the end of his tether at the post-match news conference.

"Four performances were okay, the two midfielders Hendo [Jordan Henderson] and Fab [Fabinho] worked a lot, Cody [Gakpo] and Ali [Alisson] and that is very difficult,” he said, leaving reporters to gather their own conclusions about what he thought of the other men in red. “If you want to get something here 14 or 15 players have to be on top of their game and that was not the case."

"There is nothing good to say about this game!"Jurgen Klopp struggles to explain his side's downfall following 4-1 loss to Man City... 😳🎙️ @TheDesKelly pic.twitter.com/HnMdTo80Ek— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball)

Salah and Andy Robertson, who will probably see Mahrez's stepovers when he closes his eyes to sleep tonight, were among four players hauled off with the score at 3-1. Along with his anger over their efforts, Klopp might have had one eye on Tuesday’s match against Chelsea — to rest legs for a battle that might be won. After that, they welcome Arsenal to Anfield. Positive results in those games would keep them right in the hunt for a Champions League finish, but the scars suffered in Manchester will not have long to heal.

Remember that question? Don’t hear it too much anymore, do you? In Haaland’s absence, Grealish took in the applause on a post-match lap of honour and was the last City player to leave the pitch. The England international has been his club's man for the big occasion since the World Cup, scoring away at Manchester United and Arsenal, along with providing a game-winning assist at Chelsea.

He turned in something close to a masterclass on Saturday, with the contrast in confidence levels between Grealish and the beleaguered Alexander-Arnold almost jarring to witness at times. But, after laying on one goal and scoring another, perhaps the left-winger’s most important contribution came with the score still at 1-0, when he charged back into his own half to make a goal-saving challenge on Salah. Moments later, he created the equaliser.

“He can be judged maybe for the block to Salah, which maybe could be 2-0,” Guardiola replied when it was put to him that the victory-crowning goal was Grealish’s first at the Etihad Stadium this season. “Football is more than stats, it is many, many things. The way he gives us the right tempo to play and make extra passes… I could not imagine with the big name he is and the important price that the club paid that he has this humility to run like a teenager. That means a lot to me.”

City 4 Liverpool 1Jack Grealish deservedly gets the Haaland lap of honour slot@sn_footballclub pic.twitter.com/y1bHf0cXzm— Dom Farrell (@DomFarrell1986)

Fulltime: For 45 minutes, City and Liverpool played out another of their compelling, pulsating knife-edge tussles. Then the brilliant Kevin De Bruyne scored early in the second half and Pep Guardiola's side put their rivals to the sword. Arsenal's lead at the top of the table is — for now — cut to give points and you sense the champions are going nowhere without a hell of a fight. Liverpool's top-four fate will not be decided by games like today - they're demonstrably miles off City this season. But to have followed the 7-0 demolition of Manchester United with three consecutive defeats in all competitions is far from ideal.

88th minute: Cole Palmer is coming on for Jack Grealish. The England international gets a rousing ovation. He's been excellent since the World Cup but that has to be his finest performance in a City shirt. Outstanding.

86th minute: Another infinity-pass move brings oles before Alisson denies Alvarez. Mahrez then skews a shot off target. This has become an ordeal for Liverpool.

82nd minute: Alisson saves a thunderous Grealish volley at his near post. The goalkeeper has arguably been Liverpool's best player here which, given the scoreline, isn't ideal. Milner is welcomed in the pantomime style and Bernardo Silva comes on for Rodri. Gakpo made way for Milner. Guardiola was apparently impressed by his efforts and give the Liverpool forward a hearty pat on the bottom.

81st minute: If City ever put the ball out of play again that is.

80th minute: We've had a Poznan, Jurgen Klopp is being told he's getting sacked in the morning by the City fans. He's now introducing former City player James Milner into this mess, which feels unkind.

74th minute: GOOOOAAAAALLLLLL!!!! Jack Grealish!!!!!

Game, set and match and the goal Jackl Grealish deserves. De Bruyne is the creator. They've both been majestic.

Jack Grealish bags a well-deserved goal to give Man City a 4-1 lead!! 🙌He is in some serious form at the moment! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/56NUIqJnEX— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball)

73rd minute: It's hard to know quite what to make of that quadruple change from Klopp. Perhaps he's banking on a bit of chaos theory turning the tide. Or, quite pragmatically, deciding Tuesday's game against Chelsea is far more important for the likes of Salah at this moment in time.

69th minute: Big activity on the Liverpool bench as Klopp brings on Kostas Tsimikas, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, Roberto Firmino, Darwin Nunez and the kitchen sink. The last of those isn't true. Robertson, Elliott, Salah and Jota the men to make way.

65th minute: We've had a bit of a lull, with City stroking the ball around and their fans working the way through the songbook. The gulf between the teams in the table this year looks like it's finally showing in their on-field rivalry.

60th minute: Grealish has

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