Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said his side's capitulation in the 4-1 Premier League loss to Manchester City at Etihad Stadium was simply "not acceptable".
Last season this was a tantalising, high-stakes fixture between two title rivals, but on Saturday it proved to be a one-sided thumping, with City's dominance highlighting the gulf between the sides.
Liverpool opened the scoring when Mohamed Salah finished off a counter-attack in the 17th minute but Julian Alvarez equalised 10 minutes later before Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Jack Grealish added second-half goals to complete the rout.
As City hunt a third consecutive league title, Liverpool are seven points adrift of the Champions League places in eighth and former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand says it is "worrying times" for the Reds.
"Liverpool seem to have lost that mojo, it is hard to say why," Ferdinand said on BT Sport.
"I would be fearful about the top four as a Liverpool fan. It is worrying times for Klopp and his team."
- 'Lucky City weren't in a greedy mood'
This was Liverpool's ninth Premier League loss of 2022-23 and their eighth on the road, their most in a single season since 2014-15 and as many as they had lost away from Anfield in the past three campaigns combined.
Last season they were fighting on all four fronts until the end, missing out on the league title to City by one point and losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid, but this campaign has been markedly different.
Klopp said his side's poor performances have been happening "too often" this season and the display in Manchester epitomised their troubles.
"Conceding two quick goals broke everything down," Klopp told BBC Sport.
"The goals, how we conceded them, it's difficult to accept - we didn't put in a challenge for either. That's absolutely not acceptable to be honest.
"City were completely in control after that and we were open and they could do whatever they wanted. That they only scored one more goal is well, thank you. It could've been different and that's really bad news for us.
"We were lucky they weren't in a greedy mood. Apart from that, there is nothing good to say about this game."
Liverpool have lost nine games this season compared with just two last season
Liverpool are unable to win any silverware this term - and are now facing an uphill battle to finish in the top four, sitting seven points behind Tottenham with a game in hand.
Former Reds forward Peter Crouch said on BT Sport: "If you look at the top-four spots they are off it. It seems bizarre where they are. We saw a gulf between the two teams and it is not the first time.
"It is not just a one-off, it has been a disappointing season."
Former Wales defender Ashley Williams agreed with Crouch's assessment, saying on Final Score it was "strange" to see Liverpool struggle.
"It's not working like that well-oiled machine any more. They've got to do something big in this next week if they want to make that top four," he said.
The Reds face Chelsea on Tuesday in a crucial game for their top-four hopes, before hosting league leaders Arsenal on Sunday, 9 April.
- 'One of the best performances in my seven years'
Even without star man Erling Haaland, City were a class above Liverpool, particularly in the second half.
Grealish was instrumental in City's attack and also made a crucial block at 1-0 as Salah raced through, with the winger saying he feels "back to my normal self" after a difficult first season with the Blues.
"I feel fit and back to confidence," he said. "Scoring and getting the assist I'm buzzing. We were excellent today especially in the second half."
City boss Pep Guardiola agreed, saying this was the Grealish that City "thought could help us", but adding that all his players were "exceptional" in the victory.
"From minute one to minute 93 was a perfect performance," Guardiola told BT Sport.
"Even though we conceded a goal we played really well. One of the best performances in my seven years."
- 'Do you think it's a lack of respect?'
Guardiola denied he disrespected Liverpool after celebrating wildly in front of substitutes Kostas Tsimikas and Arthur Melo during the victory at the Etihad.
The home side were trailing to Salah's opener when a quick, sweeping move from right to left set up Alvarez to equalise from close range.
It prompted Guardiola to erupt with multiple double fist pumps in his technical area at exactly the moment Tsimikas was walking past, and the City boss back-pedalled to keep ahead of the left-back to continue his celebrations.
He then extended that to on-loan Juventus midfielder Arthur, shaking the player's hand and engaging the Brazilian in conversation.
BT Sport pundit Ferdinand said he "doesn't know how Tsimikas hasn't pushed... Guardiola out of the way" but the City boss insists he meant no offence.
"I was happy and I said how nice our goal was. That's all," Guardiola said. When asked if it was an attempt at humour he replied: "Of course. Come on."
But when it was suggested to Guardiola his actions could be construed as provocative, he added: "Nah, come on. I'm so sorry.
"Speak with Tsimikas, speak with the others. Ask him if I lack respect. I celebrate the goal with my son on that floor (the tier above).
"And I said, 'The goal was nice, isn't it'. That's all. I'm so sorry. Do you think it's a lack of respect? Ah OK, sorry. I'm so sorry."