MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester City showed they can win without goal machine Erling Haaland as they put four past Liverpool at the Etihad on Saturday to keep their chase of Premier League leaders Arsenal very much alive.
Julian Alvarez, Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Jack Grealish were all on target for Pep Guardiola's side in a goal-packed return to Premier League action after the international break.
The victory puts City five points behind the Gunners, who play Leeds United later on Saturday.
"Brilliant - we knew it would be a tough game playing Liverpool and the first after the international break is always difficult," Grealish told BT Sport after the match.
"We wanted to start this last period right, Liverpool are so dangerous with players they have up front and then you, not fear the worst, but think it's going to be a tough game to get back into it. We were excellent especially in the second half."
Mohamed Salah opened the scoring early for Juergen Klopp's side, who are clinging on to sixth place in the top flight as they fight for a Champions League berth, before City took ever more complete control of the match as time went on.
"We had a chat between ourselves and with the manager (at halftime) and he said we have to stay in the game," Grealish said. "I thought we were good first half apart from the goal. I was in the toilet at half-time, I felt sick all morning but fine now, I feel buzzing."
Haaland, who has scored 42 goals in 37 matches in all competitions since joining City this season from Borussia Dortmund, suffered a groin injury against Burnley on March 18.
World Cup-winner Alvarez netted his 13th goal of the season for City - and had Haaland up in the stands on his feet celebrating - when he lashed in after a cross from Grealish in the 27th minute, following a beautiful build-up move by City.
De Bruyne put the home side ahead right after the break, tapping in a low cross from Riyad Mahrez that beat diving Liverpool keeper Alisson.
City then put their foot on the gas as Liverpool lost steam, with Gundogan scoring in the 53rd, slotting in a rebound from an Alvarez shot.
"Our display was almost perfect," said Guardiola, who won his 100th game at Etihad with City. "The first minute to 93 ... really really good, the way we played."
Grealish, one of City's most lively players throughout the match, was rewarded for his hard work with a goal in the 74th minute - sending many Liverpool fans to the exits on a humbling afternoon.
Looking ahead though, the England winger insisted that the fate of the Premier League this season is still in Arsenal's hands.
"Arsenal are a great team," Grealish said. "So we've just got to keep doing what we can to chase them down."
Klopp had no explanation for how flat his team was in the second half.
"No, I have no clue why we didn't challenge when the ball was open, no challenge, really difficult to understand," he said.
(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Hugh Lawson)