MANCHESTER, England -- Manchester City kept the pressure on Arsenal in the Premier League title race with a dominant 4-1 win over Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool went ahead against the run of play through Mohamed Salah in the first half but City equalised before half-time thanks to Julian Alvarez's 13th goal of the season. When Kevin De Bruyne put Pep Guardiola's side in front moments after the break, there was only going to be one winner.
Ilkay Gundogan made it 3-1 with a close-range finish before Jack Grealish made it 4-1 as City closed the gap at the top of the table to five points.
1. No Haaland, no problem as City keep pressure on Arsenal
Discussing Erling Haaland's injury at his news conference on Friday, Guardiola made a point of saying that City without the 42-goal striker "are not worse, just different."
It helps, of course, when you've got a player like Alvarez to come in but with Haaland stuck in the stands because of a groin injury, Liverpool were swept aside and Guardiola was proved right.
Alvarez scored one and was involved in two others while Grealish and De Bruyne each got a goal and an assist to show that City's attack is not just about one man -- regardless of how many goals the Norway international scores and records he breaks.
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Guardiola doesn't care who scores as long as someone does and he'll be far more concerned with the fact that a difficult game in the title race has been won and the pressure, for now, is back on Arsenal.
Worryingly for Mikel Arteta and his Players, City look to be starting one of their ominous runs. It's now seven consecutive wins in all competitions and four league wins in a row for the first time this season. They've also scored 17 goals in their past three games and conceded one in their past six. Arsenal have a fight on their hands.
2. Grealish quietly turning into Guardiola's key man
Grealish didn't start when Liverpool visited the Etihad last season but there was never any chance that he would miss out this time. Guardiola used him sparingly in his first year following his British-record £100 million move from Aston Villa in 2021 but, now into his second season, he's a regular in the team.
With the focus more often than not on Haaland, Grealish's development has gone under the radar but he's started 13 of City's last 15 games and against Liverpool he was the main man in a 60-second spell which turned the game.
With Liverpool already leading 1-0, Salah raced through followed by Diogo Jota. As Salah tried to square his pass for his teammate to tap in a second, Grealish ended a 40-yard sprint to get a vital toe on the ball to nudge it back to Ederson. He jogged back up the pitch through a sea of high-fives but was back in position quickly enough to cross for Alvarez to get City's equaliser. To top it off, he got on the end of De Bruyne's cross to make it 4-1 in the second half.
City are facing a crucial month with games against Arsenal and Bayern Munich to follow, and Grealish is one of the few Players sure to start them all.
3. Liverpool's away form will cost them Champions League football
There aren't many harder games in the Premier League than away at City but Liverpool need to find a way to win on their travels if they're going to finish in the top four. Klopp's side have won just three of their 14 league games away from Anfield this term and have a worse away record this season than Southampton and Leicester City, who are both in the bottom four.
With turmoil at Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United starting to struggle, Champions League qualification is still there for the taking but winning their remaining games at Anfield is unlikely to be enough to get over the line. Liverpool have got five away games left against Chelsea, West Ham United, Leeds United, Leicester and Southampton and they cannot afford many more slip-ups.
They've followed up the 7-0 win over Manchester United with successive defeats to Bournemouth, Real Madrid and City and the next two weeks could now make or break their season. They start with a trip to Chelsea on Tuesday and then face leaders Arsenal on Sunday. A week later, they travel to Leeds -- themselves battling relegation -- and by then the Champions League will either be in view or drifting out of reach.
Best and worst performers
Julian Alvarez, Manchester City: Stepped up in place of Haaland, scoring the equaliser and getting involved in City's second and third goals.
Jack Grealish, Manchester City: Made a crucial block at one end and set up City's equaliser at the other.
Mohamed Salah, Liverpool: Clinical finish to put Liverpool in front and has now scored in four games against City this season.
Fabinho, Liverpool: Overrun by a City midfield which also included John Stones adding an extra body from right-back.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool: Tried his best to kick Grealish out of the game but the City man still won their duel down Liverpool's right.
Alisson, Liverpool: The Liverpool goalkeeper probably should have got a hand on the cross which found its way to De Bruyne for the Belgian's goal.
Highlights and notable moments
It was a worrying moment for Man City fans and millions of fantasy soccer managers out there when it was confirmed that Erling Haaland was not even in the matchday squad to face Liverpool.
Your City XI 📋
XI | Ederson, Stones, Akanji, Dias, Ake, Rodrigo, Gundogan (C), De Bruyne, Mahrez, Grealish, Alvarez
SUBS | Ortega Moreno, Walker, Phillips, Laporte, Bernardo, Gomez, Perrone, Palmer, Lewis#ManCity | @HaysWorldwide pic.twitter.com/QFJnvRH9TN— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 1, 2023
However, Grealish put in a player-of-the-match performance to help City seal the win, and capped off his display by scoring his team's fourth and final goal of the game.
Jack Grealish adds his name to the scoresheet and Manchester City are in full control!
📺: @peacock #MyPLMorning | #MCILIV pic.twitter.com/ZbxQYCqhtM— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 1, 2023
After the match: What the Players/managers said
Manchester City's Jack Grealish on the win to BT Sport: "Brilliant, we knew it would be a tough game playing Liverpool and the first after the international break is always difficult. We wanted to start this last period right, Liverpool are so dangerous with Players they have up front and then you, not fear the worst, but think it's going to be a tough game to get back into it. We were excellent especially in the second half."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
Mohamed Salah is the first Liverpool player to score in four different games against the same opponent in a single season since Ian Rush did so in five meetings with Everton in 1986-87.
Jack Grealish has eight goal involvements in his 14 Premier League games since the World Cup. The forwards registered seven goal involvements in his previous 34 league appearances since signing for Manchester City in 2021. Grealish's goal was his first at home for City in almost a year, after scoring against Liverpool in the FA Cup on April 16, 2022.
Kevin De Bruyne has 10 goal involvements in his Premier League career against Liverpool (four goals, six assists), tied with Arsenal for his most against any of the "Big Six" opponents.
Riyad Mahrez's 56th Premier League assist took him past Didier Drogba as the African player with the most in the competition's history.
Manchester City: Pep Guardiola's side have a week to prepare for their next game, at Southampton next Saturday, before they welcome Pep Guardiola's former club Bayern Munich to the Etihad on April 11.
Liverpool: This match kicked off a tough run of games for Klopp's side, who travel to face Chelsea on Tuesday before hosting Premier League leaders Arsenal at Anfield on April 9.