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Manchester City's Anfield nightmare lives on... Pep runs out of answers when he faces Liverpool

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Manchester City's Anfield nightmare lives on... Pep Guardiola runs out of answers when he faces LiverpoolLiverpool's fast start was enough for them to claim three points against Man CityFabinho and Mo Salah scored in the opening 15 minutes after some controversy City arrived ready but fell apart with many injuries changing their starting sideLiverpool are now eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table 

When Mo Salah stooped to head Andrew Robertson’s cross in to the net in the 14th minute, a Manchester City fan in a sheepskin coat behind the goal simply put his head in his hands. 

On the touchline City manager Pep Guardiola wore that look he tends to save for visits to Anfield. They both knew what everybody else here knew. It was over almost before it had properly got started. Again.

Once again City had come to Anfield fully prepped and ready. The plan was set. Once again they found themselves blinded by the lights of Liverpool’s dazzling early football, cut to ribbons by the Premier League leaders rapier counter attacking thrusts.

It was, once again, a harrowing Anfield experience for Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola 

A potential handball in the build-up to Fabinho's opener was not overturned by VAR officials

Fabinho took advantage mercilessly with a thunderous strike from distance to score 

Everything that followed – everything good that City did in this game – took place in the context of those first 14 minutes. 

City knew it was coming. They know how Liverpool start games, they know they play. But at times it must be like trying to move out of the way of a steam train only to find that your laces are tied to the tracks.

There was controversy here. VAR was front and central again. Trent Alexander-Arnold could not have complained if he had been pulled up for handball a minute before Liverpool’s first goal. Had City been the team to score first, this game could have turned out differently.

But that does not detract from the remarkable fact that City and their gilded coach Guardiola have still – after three and a half years of trying – not found a way of dealing with what waits for them when they step out on to the field at Anfield.

Of this City team the left-back Angelino and deep midfielder Rodri had not experienced this before. They must have wondered what the fuss was all about. Now they know. Once Liverpool find a gear, they move forwards like a threshing machine. It doesn’t take them long to win a game and it didn’t take long here. 

Mohamed Salah quickly doubled the lead with a header from a pin-point Andy Robertson cross

Pep Guardiola was outraged with the officiating throughout the match and was very animated

Angelino was introduced to the starting eleven but struggled to deal with Mo Salah in attack

Guardiola has tried most things now. Last season his team sat as deep as a Guardiola side will ever sit and would have snatched a tight game had they not missed a late penalty. Here they sought to dominate the possession and for long periods they did so. Much of what City did was impressive. 

When Guardiola said after the game that his team had played well, it was easy to understand what he meant. 

But playing against this Liverpool team can be a unique experience in that even when much of what you do is right, things can still go horribly wrong. That is how it was for City here.

If we want to pick at things, we can ask why Guardiola chose his best centre midfielder to play in defence. You could ask why he has allowed himself to be saddled with a back-up goalkeeper who, no matter his reputation, is not suited to the frenetic nature of English football.

But City didn’t lose here because of Fernandinho or Claudio Bravo. They lost because Liverpool no longer believe they can fail at Anfield. Whatever it is that Jurgen Klopp’s players have once their wheels start to turn, we could all do with some. If they could bottle it, we would be in the queue.

This was not a complete Liverpool performance. They would have liked to have controlled the game’s rhythm a little more, would have liked a little more control of the ball. 

Sadio Mane was devastating on the break for the hosts and scored their third goal

Bernardo Silva pulled a goal back for City but it was ultimately too late on in the match 

However, Liverpool’s football in bursts was devastating. City were slightly culpable in the build up to the first goal. Sergio Aguero stopped playing as he appealed for the handball against Alexander-Arnold and then Ilkay Gundogan cleared poorly to the feet of goalscorer Fabinho. 

Later on, Gundogan erred again, failing to track Jordan Henderson dutifully enough as the Liverpool captain reached the byline to cross superbly for Sadio Mane to score.

The second goal? That one was unstoppable and one of the finest this stadium has ever seen. Some may remember a sweeping move that went Johnson/Heighway/McDermott as Liverpool beat Tottenham 7-0 at Anfield in 1978. This one went Alexander-Arnold/Robertson/Salah and was every bit as good. McDermott’s goal, incidentally, was his team’s seventh that day. It was decoration. Salah’s here was fundamental to the result and there is a difference.

Wounded so badly so early, City’s response was positive. They may argue that little things didn’t go their way. Angelino struck a post while Aguero maybe should have scored when played clear.

A goal to City at 0-2 and they would have had a major say in this game. As it was, their solitary goal came too late.

City had promising moments in the game and Guardiola said he was pleased with their display

But ultimately, City are nine points behind Liverpool and have it all to do to catch their rivals

All that was left beyond that was the theatre and there was plenty of it. Guardiola looked like a man caught up in the most excitable game of charades ever as he gestured to Liverpool supporters that his team should have had two penalties. He was wrong about the second one.

Klopp, meanwhile, strode the touchline like a chap who had just discovered he had missed the last bus home. Agitated.

Full-time told the whole story, though. As Klopp rallied the Kop with successive pumps of his fist, Guardiola was gesturing to the officials as he started the walk down the players’ tunnel. Hearing the noise of the crowd, Guardiola looked back over his shoulder and it was hard to understand why.

He has, after all, seen it all before.

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