LIVERPOOL — At an emotional Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool took a giant leap towards lifting their first league title in 24 years after they beat Manchester City 3-2 in a pulsating clash, winning 10-straight Premier League games.
The Reds raced into an early 2-0 lead thanks to Raheem Sterling’s cool finish and Martin Skrtel’s deft header, as the home fans were treated to a masterclass for most of the first half. However Man City weren’t out of it, as two goals in five second half minutes turned the match on its head.
First the hugely impressive David Silva slotted home from close range, then Silva and Samir Nasri combined to see the former’s cross deflect off Glen Johnson’s leg and into the net for the equalizer. City were in the ascendancy after that goal and it looked like there would only be one winner.
However an awful error from Man City’s captain Vincent Kompany, who horribly sliced a routine clearance, let in Philippe Coutinho to curl home the game-winner and send Liverpool’s fans delirious. It was a goal worthy of winning any game, as the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster was marked with a superb Liverpool win that puts them within touching distance of their first-ever PL title.
Liverpool is now seven points clear of City in top spot, though City have two games in hand, and is five points clear of Chelsea with four games to go.
The game started at a rapid pace, as Luis Suarez was booked for a clumsy tackle on Martin Demichelis, as Liverpool took the lead with virtually the first attack of the game. Suarez wrestled off a City defender before slotting the ball perfectly into the run of Sterling, who kept his composure by taking the ball around Joe Hart and slotting into an empty net.
City were struggling to handle with Liverpool’s relentless earlier pressure and in the 15th minute the Reds almost doubled their lead. Sterling was set free down the right and his pinpoint cross found Daniel Sturridge in the box, but he flicked an effort goalwards that flew just wide of the far post. In the 18th minute Liverpool were handed a huge boost as City’s midfield man-mountain, Yaya Toure, was forced off after appearing to pull his groin following a shot from distance. The home fans sensed the importance of Toure’s withdrawal.
As the first half wore on City played their way into the game with Silva getting on the ball more and more in the final third. Yet just when City were coming back into things, Liverpool went 2-0 ahead. First Hart saved superbly from Steven Gerrard’s header six-yards out, as somehow the England international tipped the ball over, then from the resulting corner Skrtel flicked home Gerrard’s set piece to extend the home side’s lead.
Soon after yet another innovative Liverpool attack tore City apart, but Kompany got a toe on Sturridge’s clever pass just as Suarez was preparing to finish. Liverpool were slack in possession on a few occasions in front of the back four, with Edin Dzeko being let clean through after a mix up but captain Gerrard arrived in the nick of time to knock the ball out for corner. City tried to get a goal back before the interval as Kompany’s header was hacked off the line and then Simon Mignolet saved superbly from Fernandinho’s vicious volley, as an emotionally charged and hugely eventful first half at Anfield came to a close.
In the second half Liverpool started brightly but a real moment of controversy arrived in the 50th minute as Suarez took a tumble on the edge of the box and replays showed it wad a clear case of simulation. The Liverpool forward was lucky to still be on the pitch after he was booked in the first half.
City settled into the second half well, as James Milner came onto the pitch and made an instant impact. The right winger latched onto a through ball and played in Silva to slot home in the 57th minute to give City hope. Two minutes later the away side poured forward and Silva’s cross flashed through the six-yard box but evaded Dzeko’s lunge. However the away side didn’t need to wait long to draw level, as Silva and Sami Nasri combined to see Silva’s cross deflect off Johnson and into the net to make it 2-2 with less than 30 minutes to go. Sturridge was forced off with an injury in the aftermath, as the Reds were rocking.
Sergio Aguero arrived off the bench for the final 25 minutes, as Man City’s top scorer joined the fray knowing one-goal could see his side take a massive step towards their second PL title. Aguero squirmed clear of Skrtel in the 76th minute and the Argentine played in the onrushing Silva, but his toe poke rolled agonizingly wide as City came close to taking the lead for the first time in the match.
They were made to pay for that miss as Kompany scuffed a clearance straight to Coutinho, who curled in a first-time effort to bag all three points for the Reds. A late red card for Jordan Henderson piled on the pressure, but Liverpool held on to seal a big win in their quest for the title.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan, Sakho, Skrtel, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho (Moses, 89′), Sterling (Lucas, 90′), Suarez, Sturridge (Allen, 66′)
Goals: (Sterling, 6′), Skrtel (25′), Coutinho (78′)
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Toure (Javi Garcia, 18′), Fernandinho, Navas (Milner, 50′), Nasri, Silva, Dzeko (Aguero, 68′)
Goals: Silva (57′), Glen Johnson, own goal (62′)