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From zero to hero: Ilkay Gundogan misses penalty, scores twice in dominant Manchester City victory at Liverpool

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Talk about a roller-coaster performance — Ilkay Gundogan provided the dictionary definition on Sunday for Manchester City against Liverpool.

The Germany international was the subject a heavy challenge inside the first two minutes, blazed a penalty way over the bar just before half-time before scoring twice in Manchester City’s 4-1 victory at Anfield.

After Gundogan scored the opener just after the half-time break, Mohamed Salah briefly had the reigning Premier League champions level, converting from the penalty spot, before Gundogan’s second of the game once again gave City the lead.

Raheem Sterling and the excellent Phil Foden wrapped up the result, which took Pep Guardiola’s side four points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand over Manchester United in second.

“I need to admit that missing a penalty is always a bad thing, especially early in the game,” Gundogan told the BBC afterwards. “There’s always a danger of dropping confidence but after I missed, I just tried to do the simple things as well as possible.

“Don’t get distracted by the penalty and try to keep going and help my team to win. It worked out well. Maybe I was lucky to be in the right places but I always try to be there when I smell the danger in front of goal. Happy about the goals, relieved but much happier about the result and the way we played.”

“[The title is] not ours yet, we need to stay humble, we know we need to put out performances like that out every single game. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Liverpool away or Sheffield United at home, even that game was so tight and close. Every game has its own character and challenges but we need to keep going every game is important, it could be a very good season for us.”

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Up and down

It has become the league’s most hotly contested clash over the last few seasons, with Manchester City and Liverpool fiercely competing for the past two Premier League titles.

After winning its first title in 30 years last year, the Liverpool’s title defense has faltered this season, with Manchester City stepping up in its absence, looking ominous in its hunt for its third title in four seasons.

And it was the visitors who were presented with the best opportunity to open the scoring, as Fabinho’s trip on Raheem Sterling resulted in a penalty just before the half-time break. However, the in-form Gundogan could not convert, blazing over the bar.

According to statistics from Opta, four of the last six penalties to have missed the target completely in the Premier League have been taken by Manchester City players, with three of those coming against Liverpool.

But shortly after the halftime break, Gundogan made up for his first-half mistake.

After some soft defending from Trent Alexander-Arnold let Sterling into the Liverpool box, Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson could only parry Foden’s shot into the path of the on-rushing Gundogan to give the Premier League leaders the lead.

After 10 minutes of strong City pressure, the reigning champions drew level, taking advantage of an uncharacteristic mistake from the usually excellent Ruben Dias.

A poor clearance from the Portugal international fell into the lap of Salah, and, in an effort to correct his mistake, Dias pulled back the Liverpool attacker, giving away a penalty.

And unlike his Manchester City opponent, the Egypt international made no mistake from the spot, powerfully blasting home.

Having been pegged back, the Manchester side was once again the more threatening, and thought it had reclaimed the lead — but John Stones’ effort was ruled out for offside.

It did eventually retake the lead, capitalizing on some uncharacteristic errant clearances from Alisson in the Liverpool goal.

Two sloppy passes from the Brazil goalkeeper fell to Manchester City players, and some penetrating running from Foden from the second, and an incisive pass, allowed Gundogan to grab his second goal of the game from close range.

And Alisson’s woes didn’t end there. His attempted pass out from the back fell right at the feet of Bernardo Silva who chipped over for Sterling to double the lead.

Sterling is only the third player to score more than 100 goals in all competitions under Pep Guardiola in his top-flight managerial career, after Lionel Messi with 211 and Sergio Aguero with 120.

The superb Foden, who gave the Liverpool defenders fits all afternoon, capped off a wonderful display with his own powerful finish.

Following the defeat, any title hopes look a long way off for Liverpool, while Manchester City stretched its lead at the top and continue to look impressive in this unprecedented season.

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“We played in the way you have to suffer here. Hopefully next time we can win here with people,” Guardiola told Sky Sports. “Anfield is always impressive but with people it is much more.

“Huge victory for us. Three more points at the end but I take into consideration the fact we won after we missed a penalty and conceded a goal but the way we reacted… that made the difference.

“We started really well. We cannot play like they play, we have to play in a slow rhythm. Second half we adjusted our set up and the quality of the players did the rest.

“It is an important win but it is February. Of course the gap to fifth is big right now and that means for the Champions League for next season is important but 10 wins in a row in this period is something exceptional. Today is the time to talk about this but tomorrow we look to the next game.”

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