red rage Jurgen Klopp looks lost for the first time in three years as he defends his fallen champions
After three years of relentless brilliance from Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool team, their reservoir of brilliance has run dry.
On a day when they needed to display a fighting edge against their biggest rivals Manchester City and send out a message that they were ready to fight to hold on to their title, they served up another limp performance at Anfield as they were hammered 4-1.
City's first at Anfield since 2003 and manager Pep Guardiola's first away to Liverpool as a manager, was achieved in such comfort that didn't even lament Ilkay Gundogan's first-half penalty miss.
Gundogan's opened the scoring for City at the start of the second half and while Mohamed Salah equalised for Liverpool , errors from Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker contributed to goals from Gundogan, Raheem Sterling handed City a win that was confirmed with alate clincher from the brilliant Phil Foden.
This was a comprehensive defeat as Liverpool have suffered during Klopp's reign as manager, but he insisted he found silver linings in a performance that suggested this team are jaded both physically and mentally as they face a big fight to secure a top four finish in the Premier League.
"Big part of the game was a brilliant game from my side," he claimed. "First half played really good football. Second half, City changed the system slightly. A little adaptation and we would be in the game again but at the start of the second half we did not give enough options to play and gave the first goal away.
"We gave them too much opportunity. They scored that goal, we scored the equaliser. We were good again but then made two massive mistakes that is clear. At 3-1 down at this level it is tough to take and then Foden with a genius situation for the fourth goal.
"If we play football like we did for a long time tonight then we will win football games, 100%.
"Coming out in the second half they changed the system and we didn't move enough in midfield. We scored our goal and in that moment it was possible the game goes in our direction, but Alisson made two massive mistakes, gave two goals away and then a genius situation from Phil Foden.
"The confidence could have suffered after the last game but tonight I saw a very confident team, if I'm honest. I liked the football we played. It's very difficult to explain that we lost 4-1."
City manager Pep Guardiola insisted he will not get carried away with his side's status as runaway Premier League title favourites, as they continue to impress in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne and Serio Aguero.
"Today we will celebrate, but tomorrow our feet will be on the grass again," he declared. "In February no one is champions. I can not predict the future all I can predict is work and work.
"I am so grateful to my players but this is now the past, we have done brilliantly so I cannot deny how happy we are. But we are in February. For Manchester City, three points and to come here and finally win, it's very important."
"We played in the way you have to suffer here. Hopefully next time we can win here with people. Anfield is always impressive but with people it is much more.
"Huge victory for us. Three more points at the end but I take into consideration the fact we won after we missed a penalty and conceded a goal but the way we reacted... that made the difference.
"We started really well. We cannot play like they play, we have to play in a slow rhythm. Second half we adjusted our set up and the quality of the players did the rest.
"Phil Foden is a guy who keeps the ball really well, he arrives so aggressive but he is also still so young. When he plays wide it is more easy for him, he will learn. The action for the second goal and the fourth goal, we know what a huge talent he is but he is still young and hopefully he can understand he can still improve.
"It is an important win but it is February. Of course the gap to fifth is big right now and that means for the Champions League for next season is important but 10 wins in a row in this period is something exceptional. Today is the time to talk about this but tomorrow we look to the next game."
Klopp and Guardiola may not be prepared to make public admissions at this point in the season, but both know this Premier League title race is as good as over.
After Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskaer laughed at the suggestion his side are contenders to challenge for the biggest prize in English football after their 3-3 draw at Everton on Saturday night, it feels like the title race has had its final twist.
As was the case with Liverpool's runaway success last season, Manchester City's coronation as Premier League champions once again now appears to be inevitable.
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