Man City woeful as Liverpool emerge with deserved 3-0 win at Anfield
An abject City display against a Liverpool side licking their wounds from the weekend delivered absolutely no hope of a title surge for City. Second to every ball and toothless up front against a decidedly fragile Liverpool defence, the 3-0 final score was the least the home side deserved.
Liverpool, themselves in the midst of a decidedly average season, have a goal difference of plus-five so far in 2015-16. To illustrate how easily they have trundled through City's defence, they stand at plus-six in the two games played these sides have played.
City have now lost three in a row in the league for the first time in seven years. Man United have since caught up, winning 1-0 vs. Watford on Wednesday, and now City face the prospect of a scrap just to maintain their top four position. With both Arsenal and Tottenham also losing, an obvious chance to gain ground has been thrown to the gusty Merseyside wind.
As a back-to-reality exercise after winning the Capital One Cup, this game was icily effective.
(Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Joe Hart, 6 -- His first save only came after 23 minutes to deny Roberto Firmino but he seemed to dive in stages to get down to Adam Lallana's unremarkable shot that dribbled in for the opening Liverpool goal. Busier in the second half and the only one to show any urgency when trying to retrieve the ball from up Firmino's shirt.
DF Pablo Zabaleta, 6 -- Kept busy by the lively Firmino early on and was too late to cover James Milner's shot for Liverpool's second goal. Spent the second half chasing shadows with his fellow defenders but did try his best to get up in support of the listless frontmen.
DF Vincent Kompany, 6 -- Had mentioned that City were entering the "hunting season" but appeared to be in charge of the foxes, not the hounds, on this occasion. Stepped away from Llallana's goal-bound shot and was totally unable to galvanise his defence from its game-long antics.
DF Nicolas Otamendi, 5 -- An early warning from referee Martin Atkinson for over-exuberant tackling later seemed curiously out of place in a defensive display that was far too relaxed and generally scattered. Patted the ball gently out of the box to set up Liverpool's third goal but did scramble back into position in time to see Lallana waltz past him again to set up Firmino.
DF Gael Clichy, 5 -- Needed to support Raheem Sterling up the left flank in the winger's battle against the crowd, but was too often muscled out of the way. Stayed deep to counteract the busy Milner and saw an out of sorts display curtailed in the 74th minute by Aleksander Kolarov's introduction.
MF Fernandinho, 6 -- Lot of running for little recompense. Gave the ball away incessantly and apart from a header glanced well wide, the Brazilian did little to support the attack with any purpose. Replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho after 54 minutes.
MF Fernando, 5 -- After two sterling shows against Dynamo Kiev and in the League Cup Final, it was back to being cheaply dispossessed and failing to plug the midfield gaps for Fernando. The ease with which Liverpool were able to advance to the edge of the box emphasized that his blocking and shielding job was not being done very well.
MF David Silva, 4 -- Far too elaborate in the gusty conditions. Had one real opportunity to play in Sergio Aguero but dallied; the chance went begging. After that, Silva got progressively worse and surely cannot have given away cheap possession so many times in a City game before.
MF Jesus Navas, 6 -- Endured a slow start but livened up down the right. One of the few to show some energy and some guts, hooking a shot wide after 27 minutes and getting booked for an ugly tangle with Lallana in the second half.
MF Raheem Sterling, 4 -- Completely overshadowed by the hostile crowd reaction as he had been in the Capital One Cup Final. Nothing worked; the young England star ran into countless cul-de-sacs and lost possession time after time in a one-sided battle with the Reds' fit-again full-back John Flanagan.
FW Sergio Aguero, 5 -- Showed a willingness to play in the tight spaces but got little service. A header into Milner's chest just before the break was his sole effort on goal. Looking dispirited and disinterested, he even managed to be caught and dispossessed by Kolo Toure.
FW Wilfried Bony, 5 (on for Sterling, HT) -- On for the lifeless Sterling after 45 minutes and took no time at all to fit himself into City's meandering, directionless efforts. Managed to hold onto the ball a little more than Sterling had done but to little effect.
FW Kelechi Iheanacho, 5 (on for Fernandinho, 54") -- Found himself playing left midfield and joined in the general malaise by losing possession cheaply whenever he had gained it.
DF Aleksander Kolarov, 5 (on for Clichy, 74") -- Came on as part of Manuel Pellegrini's dynamic like-for-like switch at left-back. Had just enough time to balloon a cross far towards the Liverpool docks and smack Flanagan in the face with a stray wrist.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.