Man City ease past Liverpool after Mane sees red for Ederson challenge
MANCHESTER, England -- Three thoughts on Manchester City's 5-0 win vs. Liverpool in the Premier League.
1. Man City coast after Mane sent off
Sadio Mane's first-half red card for a dangerous challenge on Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson sparked a Liverpool collapse at the Etihad Stadium, which left Jurgen Klopp on the end of his heaviest defeat as a manager.
City's 5-0 victory, the first time they have scored four or more against Liverpool since 1937, moved Pep Guardiola's team to the top of the Premier League ahead of Manchester United's trip to Stoke City later in the day.
But Mane's 38th-minute dismissal, with the score 1-0 to the home side following Sergio Aguero's opener 14 minutes earlier, was the key moment in this encounter between two of the preseason title favourites.
Having raced onto a long pass from Joel Matip, Mane raised his right foot to connect with the ball ahead of the onrushing keeper. The Liverpool player missed the ball, however, and caught Ederson on the face, prompting referee Jon Moss to show the red card to the Liverpool forward and leaving the keeper to undergo seven minutes of treatment on the pitch before he was carried off.
The decision prompted criticism, and Liverpool may argue that Ederson lowered his head into the challenge, but Moss was acting within the letter of the law by dismissing him. Whatever the mitigating circumstances, the moment was a turning point, and City capitalised by scoring further goals through Gabriel Jesus (twice) and substitute Leroy Sane (twice).
City's ruthlessness in being able to win the game emphatically was a marker of their readiness to mount a sustained title challenge, whereas Liverpool's collapse should set alarm bells ringing for Klopp.
2. Aguero and Jesus combine impressively
Guardiola has made it clear that Sergio Aguero cannot expect to play every game this season, insisting there will be times when he favours Jesus ahead of the Argentine striker.
When the two have played together in the past, it has been a partnership that has looked in need of work on the training ground but, against Liverpool, Aguero and Jesus showed that they are compatible as a strike pair, helping themselves to three goals and combining repeatedly.
Previously, Aguero and Jesus have attacked the same space and made the same runs, but it was different on Saturday. Aguero played in the more-advanced role, leaving Jesus to buzz around just behind him, and the blossoming relationship was borne out when Aguero laid on Jesus' second, and City's third, on 53 minutes.
Aguero's goal, meanwhile, saw him move ahead of Dwight Yorke, with 124 goals as the Premier League's leading overseas scorer, a milestone which emphasises his contribution at City.
In the past, Guardiola has worried that playing Aguero and Jesus together leaves City light on numbers in midfield, especially if Aguero fails to put in the work that the manager demands of all of his players. Liverpool, being down to 10 men, were unable to truly test whether that problem persists, but certainly on this occasion, Aguero and Jesus were convincing.
3. Liverpool's defensive woes
For all of their attacking flair, Klopp's men remain vulnerable at the other end. Mane's red card will blur the picture after this result, but even with the Senegal forward on the pitch, the away side's back four was unconvincing.
It was no secret that Liverpool were desperate to sign Virgil van Dijk during the summer in order to plug the gaps in their defence; Jurgen Klopp saw the central defender as a commanding presence who could bring assurance and leadership, but Southampton made it clear from the outset that he was not for sale, and Liverpool eventually backed off.
But they should have found another solution, because the flaws of last season remain unresolved. Liverpool are not strong enough in the heart of their defence, with Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren, the latter an unused substitute on Saturday, not good enough for a sustained title challenge.
Once Mane was sent off, Liverpool should have set out on a damage limitation exercise and put up the shutters. However, they were unable to do so because they lacked the personnel at the back and in midfield, and City's goals flew in unchecked.
Aside from the weaknesses in the centre, Liverpool also had the inexperienced Trent Alexander-Arnold enduring a tough time at right-back and the perennial weak link of Alberto Moreno on the left.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_