Liverpool FC have given their Premier League title bid a huge boost by putting in a resounding display to beat Manchester City FC 3-2 in a clash at Anfield. The result puts Brendan Rodgers’ men seven points clear of their Mancunian rivals, whose two games in hand would narrow that deficit to one point should they both be won. If Liverpool win their remaining four games (including a difficult tie against Chelsea) no one can stop them from lifting the Premier League trophy for the first time since its inception in 1992.
The opening five minutes set a ruthless tone for the rest of the game, with Raheem Sterling displaying veteran-like composure to slot home and put his team ahead early on. The goal had a detrimental effect on City’s confidence, and usually unflinching players such as Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure became rushed and wasteful in possession. Toure himself was forced off through injury in the 19th minute, an incident that increased Sky Blue nerves and ensured their opponents enjoyed a first half full of attacking prowess and defensive comfort.
Uncharacteristic frailties in City’s own back-four were highlighted after 25 minutes, when Steven Gerrard found an unforgivable amount of space in the box only to have his headed effort acrobatically tipped over by goalkeeper Joe Hart. The resulting corner saw Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel wriggle free of his man marker and direct the ball past a helpless Hart and into the net for the home side’s second, sending the Anfield crowd into raptures as they started to believe the game might turn out to be a walkover. That belief wasn’t entirely accurate.
Half-time came without much for the away fans to shout about bar a half-hearted penalty appeal when Mamadou Sakho seemed to slide dangerously into Edin Dzeko.
The restart signalled a significant change in character for Manchester City, and the game turned into a proper Premier League title clash when they got one back from Liverpool 10 minutes after the break. David Silva, who had looked a shadow of his energetic-self in the first 45 minutes, turned in a James Milner cross to snatch momentum for his own team, and that momentum was emphasised just under 10 minutes later. Silva was again involved, his low and innocuous-looking cross deflected off of Merseyside right-back Glen Johnson into his own net, forcing a stunned Liverpool to rethink their strategy of dealing with their opponents’ developing attacking options.
With the game all square, for 15 minutes it looked as though City were the most likely to go on and win, but Reds number 10 Phillipe Coutinho had other ideas. Pouncing on a rare mistake by Kompany, who sliced a clearance straight across his own box, the 21-year-old Brazilian midfielder rifled a clean finish into the corner of the net to make it 3-2, and condemn City to their sixth defeat of the season.
Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson was sent off in the dying minutes for a lunge on Samir Nasri (he’ll now miss the first three of Liverpool’s final four matches) but other than that it was a fine day for the home team. They face an away game at Norwich next Sunday, but it was today’s thrilling victory over Manchester City that meant they now have a the upper hand in the Premier League title clash, and will certainly back themselves to be wearing the crown come May.
Commentary by Zachary John