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Liverpool grab title reins after nail-bitting victory over Man City

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Liverpool’s beguiling bid to end their generation long Premier League title drought finally rests in their own hands after they emerged victorious from a raucous 3-2 humdinger against man City at Anfield. The momentous day on Merseyside echoed of Manchester United’s similar moment against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993 and the whole of Liverpool were geared up for the visit of City. And, the home side didn’t disappoint as they made a blistering start to the game and were 2-0 up before the half-hour mark. Raheem Sterling put them ahead after just 6 minutes with a calm and composed finished under pressure before Martin Skrtel added to his growing goal collection with a header from a corner on 26 minutes.

But Man City came roaring back in the 2nd half as they drew level round the hour mark. David Silva halved the deficit with a brilliant taken goal on 57 minutes and Glen Johnson then scored an own goal on 63 minutes to turn the game on its head. A dominant City spurned plenty of golden chances to take the lead and it came back to bite them as Philippe Coutinho scored the winner on 78 minutes after an error from Vincent Kompany. Jordan Henderson got sent off in the dying minutes of the game but it couldn’t dampen Liverpool’s joy as the players almost celebrated the title at the final whistle.

There were no surprises in the strong Liverpool line-up that Brendan Rodgers had put out as his best attacking trio of Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez. The manager’s attacking intent was highlighted by Philippe Coutinho presence in midfield along with Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard. The line-up was completed by Glen Johnson, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel and John Flannagan in defence.

After the slew of rumours surrounding his fitness, Vincent Kompany led City from the back, slotting in alongside Martin Demichelis and flanked by Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy. The usual midfield pair of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho formed the heartbeat of the side, feeding the attacking trip of Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas and David Silva. Sergio Aguero could only make it to the bench as Edin Dzeko led the attack.

Attacking towards the Kop in the first half, Liverpool were off the blocks in a flash as they took yet another early lead. Suarez showed great physical presence to win the ball well outside the box before threading a fine through ball that cut open the entire City defence. Sterling received the ball in a wonderful position on the right but he still had to twist and turn a hapless Kompany before firing a precise shot into an empty net.

The irrepressible attacking developed by Rodgers meant that Liverpool were never going to sit on that lead as continued to pour forward with verve, with Sturridge firing Sterling’s great cross wide of the post. City then suffered a major blow as Toure limped off with a groin injury in the 18th minute, with Javi Garcia coming on in his place. A stuttering City were soon 2-0 down as Skrtel’s gliding header from a Gerrard corner flew past the diving Hart, who earlier made a stunning save from Gerrard’s free header to give away the corner.

City gained a foothold in the game towards the end of the half and came extremely close to halving the deficit. An almighty scramble in the box from a City corner almost resulted in the goal for the visitors, who were denied by Sterling on the line. Mignolet then had to make a fine save in the dying seconds of the half to keep out Fernandinho’s volley as Liverpool kept their 2-0 lead in tact at the break.

The pattern of play greatly shifted after the break as Liverpool retreated into their own half and sensing an opening, Manuel Pellegrini threw on James Milner for Navas on 50 minutes and the move worked like a charm as the Englishman setup Silva seven minutes later. A beautifully worked move from left-to-right had City purring forward with venom and Milner provided the perfect cross from the right for Silva to slot home with ease. Game on!

A suddenly wide open game saw Sturridge race down towards goal unopposed as Liverpool countered with ease but a stunning recovery tackle from Zabaleta put an end to the move yards from goal. The Kop were then stunned into silence as City drew level after the hour mark, with Johnson the unfortunate player deflecting Silva’s shot from the left towards his own keeper, who could only deflect the ball further into his own net.

With the game on a knife edge Joe Allen came on for the injured Sturridge while Sergio Aguero was brought on for Dzeko, whose last kick of the game was an impromptu shot from just inside the box that had Mignolet scrambling. Suarez had turned into his petulant self on the other end of the pitch, highlighted by an act of playacting and diving not unusual for the Uruguayan. The City pressure kept increasing as Aguero raced down the left to feed Silva, who came within inches of guiding the ball past Mignolet for the lead.

But it was Liverpool who regained the lead through mistake from Kompany, who inexplicably mishit a throw-in straight to Coutinho inside the box and the Brazilian produced a brilliant first time curled finish to send the ball flying past Hart as the Kop regained its voice.

A frantic last few minutes saw Skrtel walk away scot free after handling the ball from a deep free-kick but Henderson wasn’t so lucky as he saw red for a dangerous tackle on Nasri in added time.  City poured forward in search of the late equalizer but Liverpool just about held on to the lead as wild celebrations broke out on the pitch and in the stands.

With four games remaining, Liverpool lead the table with 77 points, five ahead of Chelsea in 2nd and seven ahead of City. The destiny of the title now rests in Liverpool’s hands, with the tie against Chelsea set to be another title decider. In a see-saw battle over 90 minutes, Liverpool eventually came out winners thanks to fine margins and Gerrard’s reaction at the end emphasized the value of the victory to Liverpool.

Teams:

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan, Henderson, Gerrard, Coutinho (Moses 89’), Sterling (Lucas 94’), Suarez, Sturridge (Allen 66’)

Subs: Brad Jones, Toure, Agger, Aspas, Moses, Lucas, Allen.

Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Toure (Garcia 18’), Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Silva, Nasri, Dzeko (Aguero 68’)

Subs: Lescott, Milner, Negredo, Kolarov, Javi Garcia, Aguero, Pantilimon.

Final Score: Liverpool 3-2 Man City (Sterling 6’, Skrtel 26’, Silva 57’, Johnson (OG) 63’, Coutinho 78’)

Red Card: Henderson 93’