After 22 games unbeaten, Manchester City’s first domestic defeat of the season was “absolutely normal”, manager Pep Guardiola said after a 4-3 loss at Liverpool on Sunday ended their hopes of completing only the second unbeaten Premier League campaign.
In sweeping all before them with 20 league victories and two draws, many were comparing City to Arsenal’s “Invincibles” team of 2003-04.
But under the floodlights at Anfield, City’s unbeaten Premier League run finally ended after 30 games, 82 points and 281 days.
“I’ve won a lot of titles and always I’ve dropped points and lost games. It’s normal,” a measured Guardiola told the BBC.
“Every team fights for the Champions League, to win the league or to stay up. We have a lot of games, and hopefully we can stay fit in the schedule of games every three days. But to lose a game is absolutely normal.”
The City manager had consistently said the likelihood of an unbeaten season was “ridiculous” but, as the weeks and months ticked by and City were yet to be bested, many suggested they could join Arsene Wenger’s unbeaten champions.
On Sunday, however, City were blown away by Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who scored three goals in nine second-half minutes to inflict City’s first league defeat since April.
“Our first defeat. The bad news is we lost, so congratulations to Liverpool for their performance,” Guardiola added.
“We tried, and now we recover. People asked if everything was over and done before Christmas, and now it’s January and it’s not.
“We have a lot of games to win to be champions, and will try for the next game against Newcastle.
“We have to learn. We’ve won a lot of games in the last minute, but to concede four goals is not good. You have to live this type of situation during a season.”
After Leroy Sané cancelled out Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s opener, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah fired Liverpool into a commanding 4-1 lead.
Late goals from substitute Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan almost set up the most unlikely escape, but the revival came too late.
“We are disappointed to lose a game, it is a long time since we won here at Anfield,” Sane said.
“But at the end of the season, when we win the Premier League, nobody cares if we lost a game.”