Liverpool 3- 2 Manchester City/ Premier League / Anfield / Sunday, 13th April 2014
Goals: Sterling (6), Skrtel (26), Coutinho (78); Silva (57), Johnson OG (62)
Sent off: Henderson 90
Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling
Brendan Rodgers made no changes to the Reds side that battled to a 2-1 win at West Ham last weekend, with Mamadou Sakho keeping his place in the team in place of Daniel Agger. Lucas Leiva, despite an impressive cameo against the Hammers, remained on the bench.
An impeccable minutes silence was held to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster prior to kick-off, and the Reds produced a display that the 96 who lost their lives in 1989 would be proud of.
Liverpool got off to a sensational start, as has so often been the case at Anfield this season, and they took the lead after just six minutes.
Raheem Sterling was found superbly by Luis Suarez, and the 19-year-old showed wonderful poise and awareness to deceive both Joe Hart and Vicnent Kompany and stroke the ball into the Kop net.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side simply couldn’t cope with the Reds’ pace and pressing, and Daniel Sturridge wasted a terrific chance to put the hosts 2-0 up. The lead was soon doubled midway through the first-half, however.
Steven Gerrard’s unmarked header from Coutinho’s corner was well saved by Hart, but from the resulting corner the skipper’s delivery was met brilliantly by the head of Martin Skrtel, who powered home his seventh league goal of a phenomenal season.
Coutinho missed a good chance to add a third but dragged the ball wide, but the sheer quality of Rodgers’ side’s play was a joy to watch.
In the final 10 minutes of the half City enjoyed a good spell of dominance. Sterling and Glen Johnson did well to clear the ball off the line from Kompany’s header, while Simon Mignolet denied Fernandinho expertly just before Mark Clattenburg blew the half-time whistle.
It was truly breathless opening 45 minutes.
The second-half saw City dominate from the off, and they soon found their way back into the game. A nice exchange of passes between David Silva and James Milner culminated in the Spaniard pulling a goal back with a slick finish.
The scores were soon level, as Glen Johnson’s unfortunate ricochet squeezed past Mignolet’s near post, and the game was suddenly turned completely on its head.
Liverpool’s naivety was starting to show, with the 2011/12 champions controlling proceedings and the Reds limited to rare breakaways. Silva almost made it 3-2 with 15 minutes left, while the introduction of Sergio Aguero gave them even more threat.
Incredibly, it was the Reds who then re-took the lead after 77 minutes. Kompany’s weak clearance fell to Coutinho, who curled a terrific effort past Hart to send Anfield in delirium. It could well become one of Anfield’s most famous goals ever.
A nail-biting end to the game saw Liverpool hold firm, although Jordan Henderson was sent-off a reckless challenge on Samir Nasri in stoppage time.
The final whistle was met with huge celebrations, and the three points put Liverpool five points clear of Chelsea, who play Swansea later this afternoon, and seven ahead of City. They have one and two games in hand, respectively.
It was always going to be a risk playing such an attacking formation against a side of City’s prowess, but it was refreshing to see Rodgers keeping so much faith in his side.
City never coped with the speed of Sterling and Sturridge, and creative brilliance of Suarez and Coutinho. Liverpool’s lack of experience did show when City took control of the game, but they held strong when it looked like their title dreams could end in heartbreaking fashion.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan, Gerrard (c), Henderson, Coutinho (Moses 89), Sterling (Lucas 90), Sturridge (Allen 66), Suarez.
Subs not used: Jones, Toure, Agger, Aspas
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure (Javi Garcia 19), Navas (Milner 50), Nasri, Silva, Dzeko (Aguero 68)
Subs not used: Pantilimon, Lescott, Kolarov, Milner, Negredo
Referee: Mark Clattenburg