City make EPL statement for next season

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deflects Raheem Sterling's shot into his own goal in Liverpool's 4-0 loss.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deflects Raheem Sterling's shot into his own goal in Liverpool's 4-0 loss.

As they stepped onto the pitch, Liverpool's players were given a guard of honour from Manchester City. It was the only time they looked like Premier League champions on Thursday.

"I think they drank a lot of beers in the last week," City manager Pep Guardiola said.

The dethroned champions made sure there was an abrupt comedown from the partying.

A merciless attacking display sparked by City scorers Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden consigned Liverpool to a 4-0 loss exactly a week after their 30-year title drought ended.

"They were quicker than us in mind - we lacked fluidity," Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. "Isn't it nice another team can be champions when Man City play so well?"

The slack defending and lack of sharpness from Liverpool was perhaps forgivable from players who had spent the previous 31 rounds establishing an unprecedented 23-point lead to become England's earliest champions.

Such an emphatic loss is not how Liverpool wanted to close out such a memorable season. Especially when there are still enough games to overhaul City's record 100-point haul from 2017-18.

Klopp wasn't as downbeat as the result suggested.

"I saw a brilliant attitude, I saw boys who were fighting with all their effort," he said. "We didn't behave like somebody who became champions a week ago."

It was a night to forget for many Liverpool players - particularly Joe Gomez, who dragged Raheem Sterling down to concede a penalty converted by De Bruyne in the 25th minute.

"We tried to play football, taking risks," Guardiola said, "because they are the best team I ever faced in my life with high pressing, it is incredible how fast they are, how quick they play."

De Bruyne and Phil Foden helped City stylishly waltz through Liverpool and show how the title can be reclaimed next season.

Receiving a pass from Foden, Sterling took the ball past Gomez with his left boot before using his right to knock in City's second in the 35th minute.

Before the break, City still had time to produce a third.

The technique in the buildup would have had fans on their feet - if they were not prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead fewer than 300 people inside the Etihad Stadium could savour the counterattack that was capped by Foden playing a one-two with De Bruyne before raising the ball into the net past Alisson.

"This is a team that is evolving and changing - you can see the maturity Phil is playing with," Sterling said. "I think in the future we have some great players."

It summed up Liverpool's night that the fourth goal came from an own goal after another blistering City attacking move. De Bruyne picked out Sterling who turned Andrew Robertson and sent in a shot that was diverted into his own net by Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain.

Consider it a message from City.

"Next season started today," said Sterling.

Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspurs' European Champions League hopes are in tatters after a 3-1 defeat at Sheffield United.

Spurs are now seven points behind Wolves and Manchester United with six games to play.

Goals from Sander Berge, Lys Mousset and Oli McBurnie gave the Blades their first win since the restart while Harry Kane netted for Spurs.

Australian Associated Press