MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM (REUTERS) - Manchester City generously applauded new champions Liverpool onto the field before their Premier League match on Thursday (July 2) - and promptly showed no mercy by thrashing them 4-0 at the Etihad stadium.
With the title secured a week ago, there was little at stake for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool side who showed far from their usual levels of intensity but the loss, just their second of the league campaign, was an emphatic reminder that City will be desperate to regain their crown next season.
Klopp was quick to defend his team's attitude, rejecting any suggestion they had taken the game lightly.
“If you want to lead this story in the direction that we we’re not focused, then do it,” he said. “I liked my teams’ attitude – I saw a brilliant attitude – I saw boys who were fighting with all they have.
“It has nothing to do with last week, to be honest. It hurts like defeats hurt. What I wanted to see tonight was a team who is ready to fight against Man City, who obviously had a point to prove,” the German added.
“If there is a team in the world that can smash us like this, it is probably City but we will come again. Make a few things better and it could look differently, but for tonight that is it."
After the guard of honour, which included City manager Pep Guardiola, the visitors started brightly and Ederson had to be alert to keep out a fourth-minute effort from Mohamed Salah.
Salah then struck the post after a clever pass from Roberto Firmino, whose hair was coloured red, but if Liverpool thought they were in for another night of festivities, they were in for a rude awakening.
Joe Gomez could not cope with Raheem Sterling's twisting and turning in the box, pulling him to the ground before Kevin De Bruyne converted the penalty in the 25th minute.
Sterling doubled the lead 10 minutes later when after a swift break, Phil Foden found him inside the box and the ex-Liverpool forward cut inside Gomez and slid the ball home.
The 20-year-old Foden made it 3-0, firing past Alisson after a swift exchange with Kevin De Bruyne.
City were showing an unusual willingness to play long balls and after Rodri launched a pass deep to De Bruyne, the Belgian found Sterling inside the box and he slipped the ball goalwards, with substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's outstretched touch only turning it into his own net.
It could have been even worse for Liverpool with Riyad Mahrez's fine solo effort in the final moments but VAR spotted a handball by Foden in the build-up.
The loss was the joint-heaviest defeat by a side already crowned Premier League champions. Arsenal were beaten 4-0 at Liverpool in 1997-98 in the game after they clinched the title.
Guardiola said there was no question of Liverpool having suffered any kind of ‘hangover’ from their title win.
“I think they drunk a lot of beer the last week, but they were here with no beer in their blood and to win this game,” the Spaniard said.
“I saw a team with incredible focus, with energy and a desire to win the game, and I saw from the first minute they were focused to play hard,” he added.