LIVERPOOL, England — Manchester City’s quest to be the second “Invincibles” of English soccer ended thanks to nine minutes of madness on Sunday.
Hounded and harassed by Liverpool’s high press inside a raucous Anfield, City fell apart through a series of defensive mistakes and went from being level at 1-1 after 59 minutes to trailing 4-1 in the 68th minute.
City defender Kyle Walker rubbed his face in disbelief. Pep Guardiola, City’s manager, looked at the ground in shock.
City recovered admirably to lose 4-3 but its five-month, 22-match unbeaten start to the league is over. Arsenal’s undefeated season in 2003-04 won’t be emulated for another year.
“We lost a little bit of control,” Guardiola said of the atmosphere. “We were involved in the environment at Anfield.”
This was seen as the toughest test in City’s final 16 games of the season — the team hasn’t won at Anfield since 2003 — and so it proved. Liverpool was without the departed Philippe Coutinho and the injured Virgil van Dijk, but showed once again that there is no more dangerous team in matches between members of England’s “Big 6.”
Liverpool’s effervescent front three — Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah — all scored, as did the man who might replace Coutinho in its so-called “Fab 4” attack, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The win moved Liverpool level on points with Chelsea and second-place Manchester United, with all three teams 15 points behind City. United can reduce the gap to 12 points by beating Stoke on Monday.
Arsenal’s class of 2003-04 remains in a league of its own but, 14 years on, the north London team is in disarray.
Arsene Wenger’s team lost 2-1 at Bournemouth, on the day the departure of Alexis Sanchez looked closer with Arsenal dropping the forward for the trip to the south coast. Wenger later said Sanchez’s future would be sorted “in the next 48 hours” as City and United vie for his services.
Arsenal is in sixth place, eight points off the Champions League qualification positions.
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80