On Sunday Liverpool took another huge step towards finishing in the top four, as they beat Manchester City 2-1 at Anfield.
[ RELATED: Liverpool edge past City ]
Stunning strikes from Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho sealed the win for Liverpool, as Edin Dzeko’s first half equalizer was as good as it got for the title-chasing Citizens.
[ RELATED: Mourinho praises Zouma ]
The defeat means City could fall eight-points behind current leaders Chelsea, as Manuel Pellegrini’s men couldn’t cope with Liverpool’s tempo in the second half.
Here’s three things we learned from City’s damaging defeat at Liverpool.
COUTINHO LEADS LIVERPOOL’S CHARGE, CITY’S TITLE HOPES IN RUINS
For the second Sunday in a row, Coutinho scored a goal of the season contender. For the second season in a row, he scored a late winner against Manchester City at Anfield. The tiny Brazilian playmaker was the best player on the pitch against City as his darting runs and quick passing and movement in front of City’s back four made him a nightmare to defend. Coutinho, 22, has all of the attributes to become one of the best players in the Premier League. He is fast becoming just that. Look at his goal above. Do you need any more proof?
[ VIDEO: Rodgers says top four is real possibility ]
After signing a new long-term deal last month, he is pulling the strings as Liverpool is now unbeaten in 11 PL games and have moved into fifth place as they surge towards UEFA Champions League qualification for the second-straight season.
“It’s a massive win for us, we’ve got momentum,” Adam Lallana told Sky Sports afterwards. “They [Man City] are the champions and I thought we thoroughly deserved it today. They came back into it but the lads have got fighting spirit and the little magician [Coutinho] at the end coming up with another wonderful goal. With players like that, we are going to go far.”
As for City, just one shot on target all game (Dzeko’s goal) says it all. That was the fewest efforts on target City have had in any game so far this season, as their fluidity in the final third went missing when they needed it most (more on that below). If Chelsea win their game in hand, they will go eight points clear at the top of the table with 11 games to go. It’s safe to say that the Citizens’ title hopes are not only hanging in the balance, but that they are hanging by a thread.
HENDERSON MAY SOFTEN BLOW OF GERRARD’S DEPARTURE
It will be extremely difficult, and perhaps virtually impossible, for any one person to replace Steven Gerrard when he leaves Liverpool Football Club in May for the LA Galaxy and MLS. But in vice-captain Jordan Henderson, flashes of brilliance like his stunning 11th minute goal (watch in the video below) which put Liverpool ahead suggest he could fill-in for Gerrard and become a lynchpin for many years to come.
In the first half Henderson drove forward from midfield time and time again and with Adam Lallana (who had two goals disallowed) buzzing around, Coutinho pulling the strings and Raheem Sterling making runs in behind, the Reds looked dangerous. Henderson was more withdrawn in the second half but he sat back and protected Liverpool’s back three with Joe Allen to show maturity as they won the midfield battle and pressed Yaya Toure into a poor second half display. Henderson came up big in a massive game for Liverpool, as his stunning strike set the tempo.
Speaking about the possibility of replacing Gerrard as Liverpool’s skipper, here’s what Henderson had to say.
“Stevie goes to America and we will decide who’s going to be the next captain, but that’s not up to me, it’s up to the manager,” Henderson told The Times. “It will be a huge honor regardless of who’s been captain in the past or who might be in the future. There’s never going to be another Steven Gerrard. In my time here I’ve learnt a lot from him, not only as a player but as a person.”
CITY MUST STOP WITH 4-4-2
After 62 minutes of their UEFA Champions League clash with Barcelona last Tuesday, Manuel Pellegrini switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation as his team struggled to create chances in the final third. The same happened on Sunday, as James Milner replaced goalscorer Dzeko on the hour mark, as David Silva and Samir Nasri were failing to impact the game from wide positions.
City have an array of attacking talents, but if they aren’t placed in the correct positions to flourish then the whole thing falls apart. Toure and Fernandinho were overrun in central midfield in the second half as Liverpool had the extra man in the middle, while City looked more fluid when James Milner arrived to play out wide and Silva slotted in underneath Aguero. After having just one shot on target and Aguero having another hit the post and come back out, it’s clear that Pellegrini’s persistence to play two up front in yet another massive game was a massive mistake. City could now fall eight points behind Chelsea in the title race. With 11 games to go, their dreams of winning back-to-back titles seems all but over.