Manchester City broke Premier League protocol when they gave the newly crowned Premier League champions a guard of honour before their clash at the Etihad.
The guard of honour was always going to be charged with poignancy, given that Liverpool’s relentless rampage towards ending their 30-year title drought had also brought the curtain down on City’s two-season reign as champions.
And when City players made their way out of the tunnel to form two lines and applaud the emerging Liverpool players, many Reds fans were left fuming at what they saw as disrespect from the deposed champions.
Some City players stopped clapping before all the Liverpool players had emerged from the tunnel, then left the lines before the entire team had walked through.
What was also interesting about the guard of honour was that, in performing the tribute, City’s players broke Premier League protocol which dictates that the visiting side are supposed to make their way to the pitch first.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, one of the changes made for Premier League games under Project Restart was that away teams should enter the playing area first, followed by the home team, rather than both teams coming out together.
Before the game, Alan Shearer predicted a backlash from City and expected the gesture would “hurt” Guardiola and his players.
The former England striker-turned-pundit said: ” Manchester City will show Liverpool great respect with a guard of honour before the game, but it will hurt Pep Guardiola and his players to have to do it, and they will want to prove a point on the pitch afterwards.”
Shearer was proved right as Pep Guardiola’s side turned on the style and raced into a 3-0 lead by half-time.
Raheem Sterling was hauled down by Reds defender Joe Gomez to win a penalty which was stroked home by Kevin de Bruyne.
Sterling doubled City’s lead against his former club with a smart finish soon after, before Phil Foden slotted in a third on the stroke of half-time.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain turned the ball into his own net after 66 minutes as he attempted to stop Sterling from doubling his personal tally.
City’s win was a clear statement of intent ahead of next season, when they will target a third Premier League title in four seasons.
And Guardiola’s side may be able to focus their efforts entirely on nipping Liverpool’s dominance in the bud given they face the prospect of a two-year ban from European football.
But Liverpool won’t take their 4-0 defeat lying down as they bid to build on winning four trophies in the space of just over a year, following last season’s Champions League triumph and their UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup victories this term.
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