Liverpool 3 Manchester City 2 match report: Reds take giant step to first title in 24 years after maintaining pace at top of Premier League table

Liverpool last won the top-flight title back in 1990

Anfield

Every league season features great games and every league season features decisive games but it is rare indeed for them to be both. If Liverpool are to win their first league championship in 24 years next month, and even if they don’t, they will always have this beautiful specimen of a football match to remember their season by.

And what a season it has been and promises to be for Liverpool, having established themselves as the leaders of the Premier League with four games left to play. They have beaten their most credible rivals in the title race and now have just four wins between them and a historical first Premier League title. What, they might ask, is four games when you have already won ten in a row?

In the emotional post-match huddle that Gerrard convened on the pitch, the Liverpool captain called upon his team-mates to do the same at Norwich on Sunday, where the run-in resumes.  It used to be only Alan Partridge who thought matters of great importance were settled in Norwich, but now the nation’s gaze turns to Carrow Road to see where this improbable pursuit of the title will take Brendan Rodgers’ team next.

 

What Gerrard did not mention when he pulled his team-mates together was the opponent whom Liverpool face when they next return to Anfield on 27 April. Chelsea’s visit to Anfield is set-up perfectly by this result, even before one considers the other factors: master against apprentice, one unshackled attacking unit against the masters of the bespoke defensive game. This has been a brilliant Premier League season and it is building towards one hell of a finish.

Rodgers’ team took a thrilling path to victory, although not always as their manager would have preferred it. They tore into Manchester City at the start and established a two-goal lead within 26 minutes – and quite frankly, it could have been more. Then in City’s best period, the 20 minutes after the break when James Milner’s introduction changed the game, David Silva scored, City equalised and Liverpool were obliged to win it all over again.

They did so with a glorious goal from Philippe Coutinho, taken first time on his right foot after another error from Vincent Kompany had presented him with the ball. By then Liverpool were no longer the dominant team and goalscoring chances were much thinner on the ground but then this in this title race, the most volatile in recent memory, Liverpool are the team taking their opportunities.

It was not without the controversial refereeing decisions that feel inevitable when there is so much at stake. Jordan Henderson was sent off in injury-time at the end of the game when a loose touch tempted him to lunge with his studs raised at Samir Nasri and, rolling over the ball and into the opponent, he paid the price. That was “a bit harsh” Rodgers said, his only complaint about Mark Clattenburg.

Manuel Pellegrini had more issues to raise with the referee but even he did not seek to blame Clattenburg. Chief among his complaints was a handball against Martin Skrtel, the scorer of Liverpool’s second goal, in the second half that did not yield a penalty for City. Pellegrini declined the opportunity to talk about Suarez although he might have wondered how the striker escaped a second booking; not least for a blatant dive designed to incriminate Martin Demichelis.

Read more: Rodgers: We were incredible today
Gerrard: The longest 90 mins I've ever played
Comment: Kompany and Co lack recipe for success

Suarez could argue that his original booking, the first of the game, and coming in the fifth minute, was somewhat disproportionate. In fact, one could spend the rest of the day arguing over the details, but the big picture was another compelling game. Liverpool’s momentum carried them forward, City’s edge was dulled by the demands of another long season. They fought each other to a standstill at times.

Two days ahead of the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough, there were flowers presented by City beforehand and a minute’s silence in which the only sounds were the whirring of photographers’ camera shutters and the distant clatter of a police helicopter. It was an emphatic start from Liverpool just moments later and within 20 minutes they were a goal up. City, on the other hand, were a big man down.

That was Yaya Toure, who came off on 19 minutes having landed awkwardly after hitting a shot. His was a huge absence for City who replaced him with Javi Garcia and then conceded again within six minutes.

Raheem Sterling’s goal was symbolic of his composure and confidence and, although he faded in the second half, before the break he was the best player on the pitch. His finish was the work of a much more experienced footballer. Put simply, while the City defence went one way, he went the other and slotted the ball into an empty goal.

In the move that led to the goal it was a header won by Coutinho that prised possession away from City and it was a sign of his commitment that the young Brazilian very nearly finished off the move. He was only denied that privilege by the precocity of Sterling’s finish.

In the interim, Suarez did good work to create the chance, starting with his back to the goal, turning and slipping the ball through to Sterling. The young winger had Joe Hart and Kompany between him and the goal and stopped, put the ball on his left foot, waited until the pair had committed, turned back to his right and rolled the ball into the goal as, to his right, Coutinho asked for the pass.

Kompany was also at fault for the second from Skrtel, who pulled away from him at a corner after a fine save from Hart denied Gerrard. The Liverpool captain’s corner was glanced off the top of Skrtel’s head with Kompany having failed to take responsibility. After that, City came back into the game and had chances to score at the end of the first half with Mamadou Sakho, in particular, fortunate that Clattenburg was not less forgiving on a challenge of his on Edin Dzeko.

Milner made Silva’s goal as City pulled one back, exchanging passes with Fernandinho and driving down the right to cross into the area for the playmaker to score on 57 minutes. Five minutes later they were level, when City were afforded too much time in the area and Silva’s shot ricocheted off Glen Johnson and then Simon Mignolet before going in. Silva should have scored City's third just moments before Coutinho got the winner.

“We’ve won nothing yet,” Gerrard said afterwards. True, of course, although they have won pole position in this absorbing race which is quite enough for now.

Liverpool (4-3-3): Mignolet 7; Johnson 7, Skrtel 7, Sakho 7, Flanagan 6; Coutinho 8 (Moses, 89), Gerrard 8, Henderson 7; Sterling 8 (Lucas, 90), Sturridge 4 (Allen 5, 65), Suarez 7.

Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Toure, Agger, Aspas.

Manchester City (4-1-3-2): Hart 6; Zabaleta 6, Kompany 4, Demichelis 6, Clichy 6; Fernandinho 6; Navas 5 (Milner 8, 50), Toure 6 (Garcia 6, 19), Nasri 6; Silva 8, Dzeko 6 (Aguero 6, 68).

Substitutes not used: Pantilimon (gk), Lescott, Negredo, Kolarov.

Booked: Liverpool Suarez Manchester City Garcia, Fernandinho, Zabaleta

Sent off: Henderson

Match rating: 9

Suggested Topics
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss