Guardiola virtually concedes title after heavy loss for City

Guardiola virtually concedes title after heavy loss for City

MANCHESTER, England — The Premier League season is barely past the halfway point and already Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has virtually given up on winning the title.

The world’s most coveted coach can’t have envisaged his first year in English soccer being this tough.

It takes something special to overshadow a match between bitter rivals Manchester United and Liverpool, but City’s 4-0 loss at Everton on Sunday did just that.

As he slumped to the heaviest loss of his career in a domestic league match, Guardiola — with his arms folded — was seen staring into space while he sat in the Goodison Park dug-out. At other times, he had his face in his hands.

City has dropped out of the Champions Leagues positions, into fifth place, and 10 points adrift of leader Chelsea.

Asked if the gap to first place was now too great, Guardiola said: “(To) the first one? Yes. Ten points is a lot of points. The second one is three points. We have to see.”

A fifth loss of the league season was administered by a team managed by Guardiola’s friend and former Barcelona teammate, Ronald Koeman.

“Pep Guardiola knows it is a project at Manchester City,” Koeman said. “Of course, maybe they expected better results and a defeat like this is really strong but Pep has the experience to turn it around.”

Man United kicked off less than an hour after City’s drubbing but couldn’t get a win that would have put the neighbours tied on points, drawing 1-1 with Liverpool at Old Trafford.

After 21 of 38 games, City and United — the two pre-season title favourites— are outside the top four. Two high-profile managers were always going to have their reputation tarnished this season, with six big teams challenging for four Champions League spots.

Few would have predicted they’d be Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.

Here’s a closer look at the top games that pitted Merseyside against Manchester:

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EVERTON 4, MANCHESTER CITY 0

While there was misery for City at Goodison Park, there was jubilation for Everton after a win that was sealed by goals from two of the club’s promising teenagers.

Goals either side of halftime by Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas set Everton on its way before 18-year-old midfielder Tom Davies raced into the area and dinked a deft finish over goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, the ball landing just inside the post.

It completed an impressive display by Davies, who has now started two straight games and is distinctive with his all-action style and mop of blond hair.

The fourth goal was scored by 19-year-old debutant Ademola Lookman, four minutes into injury time. And it summed up City’s sloppy performance.

John Stones — a former Everton player — tried to clear the ball for a throw-in only to see it ricochet off Everton defender Seamus Coleman to set up Lookman. Signed from Charlton this month and on as a late substitute for his debut, Lookman placed his shot through Bravo’s legs.

“How we played in the second half was really perfect,” Koeman said. “In my opinion, it is impossible to play at a higher level, in every aspect of football. It was a perfect afternoon.”

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MANCHESTER UNITED 1, LIVERPOOL 1

Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalized late for United to bail out teammate Paul Pogba in a frantic, intense match at Old Trafford between the two most decorated teams in English soccer.

On the day United rolled out advertising hoardings displaying Paul Pogba’s new Twitter emoji, the player himself made a crucial mistake by conceding a penalty for handball while jumping with his back to the ball at a corner.

James Milner converted the spot kick but Liverpool was denied a win after Ibrahimovic glanced a header in off the crossbar in the 84th minute, moments after substitute Marouane Fellaini headed against the post.

Liverpool ended United’s nine-game winning run in all competitions — six of which had come in the league — but dropped seven points behind first-placed Chelsea. Sixth-placed United was 12 points off the leader.

Steve Douglas, The Associated Press

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