Liverpool (AFP) – Liverpool handed Manchester City their first Premier League defeat this season as the rampant Reds won 4-3 against the shell-shocked leaders to show they can thrive without Philippe Coutinho.
City swaggered into Anfield unbeaten in the top flight in 30 matches and widely heralded as champions-elect amid talk that they could go throughout the entire league campaign without losing.
But 90 minutes later, Pep Guardiola’s side were licking their wounds after their first domestic defeat since the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal last season.
They were beaten at their own game as Jurgen Klopp’s team delivered a scintillating display that allayed fears they may struggle follow the sale of Brazil forward Coutinho to Barcelona.
In their first match following Coutinho’s exit, Liverpool were on fire from the moment Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave them an early lead.
Leroy Sane equalised before half-time, but Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah destroyed City after the break with three goals in nine minutes.
Late goals from Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan made the final score closer than City deserved.
It was a rare chastening experience this season for City, but shouldn’t prove damaging to their title bid as they remain 15 points clear of second-placed Manchester United, who host Stoke on Monday.
Liverpool go above Chelsea into third place after extending their unbeaten run to 18 matches in all competitions.
While Coutinho’s departure ended the brief reign of Liverpool’s ‘Fab Four’, Klopp could still call on Firmino, Mane and Salah.
And on the evidence of this sublime performance, it won’t be long before they are dubbed Liverpool’s ‘holy trinity’.
They quickly combined for a tone-setting break as Firmino’s lofted pass to Mane caught the City defence flat-footed, but when the ball ran to Salah, John Stones made a last-ditch block.
Liverpool fans mercilessly jeered Raheem Sterling on his return to the club he left acrimoniously in 2015.
And the Kop faithful were crowing even louder when Oxlade-Chamberlain put Liverpool ahead in the ninth minute.
When Oxlade-Chamberlain took possession 45 yards from goal, he appeared to pose little threat, but City’s defenders fatally backed off.
Advancing at pace, Oxlade-Chamberlain set his sights from 25 yards and unloaded a fierce drive that fizzed past City goalkeeper Ederson into the far corner.
– Rattled City –
It was only the England winger’s fourth goal following his August transfer from Arsenal and it couldn’t have been more well-timed with Coutinho’s exit having opened up a place in the team.