Liverpool suffered a first Premier League defeat of the season as Manchester City won their top-of-the-table showdown 2-1 at Etihad Stadium.
Goals from Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane either side of Roberto Firmino’s header gave the hosts victory in a fraught and hard-fought encounter.
Here are five talking points from the game…
The smallest margins
It’s fair to say Liverpool could not have come closer to opening the scoring in the 18th minute.
Mohamed Salah’s perfectly-judged through pass into Sadio Mane’s run saw the latter thread a low shot against the left post from a central position.
But it was John Stones’ attempted clearance of the rebound that so nearly edged the visitors ahead, the ball striking his own goalkeeper, Ederson, and looping back towards the goalline until the centre-back somehow stretched to hook away.
The absence of an alert from the Goal Decision System was the sign Stones had achieved his rescue mission – and the replays were agonising for those affiliated to the Reds, with mere centimetres the difference.
Firmino offers a lifeline
Liverpool’s No.9 kick-started their comeback against Arsenal last weekend and he threatened to be the architect of another midway through the second half in Manchester.
At the same end where Aguero had smashed the hosts in front just before the break, the Reds produced a leveller of exquisite execution.
Trent Alexander-Arnold spotted Andy Robertson creeping in at the back post and picked out his fellow full-back with a deep delivery from right to left.
The Scot showed customary composure to pop a pass across the face of goal for Firmino to head home from close range and haul Liverpool level – albeit all too briefly.
The unbeaten run comes to an end
Liverpool’s formidable 20-game unbeaten run had accrued 17 wins and three draws, with Jürgen Klopp’s men having tested themselves against every team in the Premier League.
It was the strongest start to a league campaign by the Reds for 30 years and ensured they sat proudly at the top of the tree when 2018 concluded.
But it finally, valiantly came to an end at Etihad Stadium as Sane’s low strike on 72 minutes separated the sides despite the continuing efforts of the visitors to find a second equaliser right until the final whistle sounded.
Four points the gap
City’s narrow victory means the Reds’ advantage at the summit has been reduced to four points.
Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions leapfrogged Tottenham Hotspur into second place with the result on Thursday night as the standings congested after the first round of matches to be played in 2019.
But, nevertheless, it is Liverpool who continue to lead the way with the most wins and the most points as the Premier League action now pauses following the frantic festive period.
Time to go again
And so the Reds must – and will – simply rally themselves.
Attentions now turn to an FA Cup tie at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday night before their bread-and-butter routine continues with a trip to Brighton and Hove Albion the following Saturday.
Seventeen games to go.