Stevan Jovetic Manchester City
Manchester City forward Stevan Jovetic celebrates after scoring against Liverpool in the English Premier LeagueReuters

The big question heading into the first big English Premier League game of the new season was "Can Liverpool shine in the big games without Luis Suarez (even if their talisman did not have the greatest of records against the top four last season)?"

Well, after 90 minutes of intriguing football, the question remained a tad unanswered purely because Liverpool put in a decent controlled performance, but the end result was well against them with Manchester City, the defending champions, scampering to a 3-1 victory at the Etihad.

Liverpool had plenty of possession, and went out looking for all three points, but that "just give the ball to him and he'll work his magic" player was missing; the one who can penetrate, and create, and weave that magic wand to leave everyone spellbound.

The man who could yet do that was watching from the stands with Mario Balotelli having to witness his former team go three goals in front – via a brace from Stevan Jovetic and Sergio Aguero – before an own goal from Pablo Zabaleta late in the game gave Liverpool some consolation.

While attentions naturally turn towards the attacking front during these games, especially considering the firepower of both sides, it is the defence, Liverpool's in particular, which could eventually decide where they finish when Premier League 2014-15 calls it a day in May, with some shoddy defending from the away side giving Manchester City a way through to all three points.

"Up until they scored, we were arguably the better side," said Rodgers. "We looked a threat going forward, we had good possession of the ball and tactically we were very good, but we switched off just before halftime and Jovetic finished it very well.

"We started the second half reasonably brightly, but we gave away two poor goals, really. They worked the ball well for the second one, but for the third one you've got to get tighter - you've got to get up to the ball and stop the winger turning.

"In fairness to the players, it's still very early on in the season and we're still looking for our fitness and to get up to our level, but they kept going."

Jovetic, who showed glimpses of his class during preseason, brought that good form into competitive action as well, scoring the first goal of the game four minutes before halftime, by nipping in ahead of a "should I clear it here, or there" Alberto Moreno to thump the ball through Simon Mignolet's legs.

Ten minutes into the second half and Jovetic had his double, slotting home a cross from Samir Nasri, before Sergio Aguero, with his first couple of touches after coming on for Edin Dzeko, made it 3-0 in the 69th minute, latching onto a through ball from Jesus Navas to finish with aplomb.

Liverpool got a goal back on 83 minutes, with Rickie Lambert seeing his header, off a cross from Daniel Sturridge, saved by Joe Hart, with the ball then taking a deflection off Zabaleta and nestling into the net.

Rodgers' side gave it a good go in the final moments, putting City under pressure, but once Glen Johnson limped off in the final moments to leave Liverpool, who had already made their three substitutions, with only ten men, even the slightest of hopes of a miraculous comeback were gone.