Title race all but over as City fail to respond to Liverpool statement

By Sports Desk December 27, 2019

Throughout the first half of the 2019-20 Premier League season, the contrast between the performances of Liverpool and Manchester City has been stark.

Unbeaten and unbelievably consistent, Liverpool have been largely infallible as they have taken their form from last season's incredible title race between the two same sides to the next level. The sole blemish on the Reds' domestic season to this point is a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

City, meanwhile, have slogged through a campaign in which injuries have exposed a lack of depth at the back and left them to struggle against inferior opposition on several occasions.

Their defeat at Anfield, a stadium where City have not won since 2003, in November was no surprise given their desperate record at the home of the league leaders, but losses to Norwich City, United and Wolves - who became just the second team to complete a league double over Pep Guardiola's City - were marks on the ledger few anticipated.

The difference between Liverpool and a City side that look increasingly likely to be surrendering the title come May was laid bare at Molineux in a remarkable game.

Only 24 hours earlier, Liverpool, less than a week removed from their Club World Cup final win, breezed through what was seen as their toughest challenge of the season.

Jurgen Klopp's men came through a seemingly tricky trip to Leicester City in style, controlling the game from start to finish en route to an emphatic 4-0 success.

It was a display to silence any lingering doubters questioning whether Liverpool can finish the job from such a commanding position, and City's showing in the Midlands only served to further talk that this title race is becoming a procession for the Merseysiders.

Indeed, what City produced against Wolves was the antithesis of what Liverpool delivered at the King Power Stadium. Any hope of controlling the game was lost when Ederson raced outside the box and caught Diogo Jota as the Portuguese bore down on his goal. A straight red card forced a reshuffle in which Sergio Aguero was withdrawn to allow Claudio Bravo to slot in between the posts.

Stunningly, 10-man City did manage to assume control as a twice-taken Raheem Sterling penalty gave them the lead 25 minutes in, albeit he had to pounce to net on the rebound. WIth five minutes gone in the second half, the same man made it 2-0 at the end of a wonderfully worked break and City looked set to emerge unscathed and with a morale-boosting away win.

However, just five minutes later Wolves had hope. Adama Traore rifled in from the edge of the area to punish Sterling sloppily losing possession. Yet, even as Wolves pushed and pushed, City looked relatively comfortable, but their defensive frailties emerged once more and helped Wolves complete the turnaround.

The much-maligned Bravo proved dependable in goal, but he could do nothing about Wolves' equaliser. Benjamin Mendy, known more for his injuries and social media activity than any defensive capabilities at this point in his City career, was out-muscled by Traore on the right byline, and he teed up Raul Jimenez for a tap-in.

Matt Doherty completed the comeback as he played a one-two with Jimenez and was allowed to work his way past three City defenders before lashing a left-footed effort beyond Bravo's despairing dive.

Chelsea are the only other team to complete a Premier League double over Guardiola's City, doing so in his first season. City finished that campaign third, the position they occupy now as Guardiola's side sit a massive 14 points behind Liverpool.

Asked about that gap after the match, Guardiola was considered and stopped short of declaring the title race over, but deep down he will know overhauling Liverpool is a near-impossible task.

Whereas Liverpool look emboldened by running the champions so close last season, City appear exhausted by their astonishing exploits of the previous two terms. The frantic finale at Molineux likely ensured there will be no such grandstand finish in May and as 2019 draws to its conclusion, the title race is all over bar the shouting.

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