It was easy to think of today’s game between Manchester City and Liverpool as the Other Super Bowl (and perhaps the preferable one, for those of you who prefer to dedicate less than four hours to a viewing experience), given the quality of the teams involved and the stakes of the contest. Here was a recently resurgent Liverpool side’s last chance to gain some ground on a steady and punishing Manchester City in this season’s title race. A win would have brought Liverpool within four points of City’s league-leading tally; a loss would put them 10 in the hole.
A 10-point hole it is. City ended up running away with this one, 4-1, despite missing a penalty chance and conceding one to Liverpool, and they have Liverpool keeper Alisson to thank for the comfortable nature of their victory.
With the game tied 1-1 in the 73rd minute, Alisson gave the ball straight to City starlet Phil Foden while trying to play out from the back. Foden pounced on the wayward pass and immediately created an easy goal for İlkay Gündoğan:
That’s a miscue that would have probably haunted Alisson for years to come if he had not made an even worse blunder just a few minutes later. Alisson, man, what was this???
These very well could be season-destroying fuck-ups for Liverpool, and they also serve as a nice microcosm of how City, following some early season struggles, has managed to get an increasingly tight grip on the title race. While every other good team has been oscillating between peak performance and self-defeating missteps—it was just over a week ago that Liverpool was Officially Back after beating Tottenham 3-1—City has just marched along, collecting every point made available while allowing every other team’s meltdowns to make the journey easier.
None of that is to say that City didn’t fully earn this win or their current place atop the table. Even a City squad that falls short of the absurd standards that have been set during the Pep Guardiola era is an extremely good one, and one that can keep inventing new ways to dominate. For evidence, look no further than the 20-year-old Foden, who was a peripheral presence on Guardiola’s previous title-winning teams but today was the best player on the field. As if to drive that point home, he iced the game with this stunning goal:
It’s been a weird Premier League season, filled with surprising performances and confounding results. It makes perfect sense, then, that in a season so chaotic, it’s the team that has a player like that, just hanging around in its rotation, that now finds itself in the strongest position to win it all.