There were only four clubs in action Sunday for the Barclays English Premier League, but both matchups had major implications on the top of the table. While Luis Suarez played a huge role in Liverpool's 5-3 win over Stoke City, Manchester City earned a 2-0 victory over Newcastle United to claim sole possession of first place.
But Manchester City could be knocked off its perch as early as Monday, with Arsenal trailing by just two points heading into its matinee against Aston Villa. Things are getting tight atop the EPL standings as the second-half drama heats up. Here's a look at the updated league table and a wrap up of the Jan. 12 action.
|14||West Bromwich Albion||21||4||9||8||21|
|17||West Ham United||21||4||6||11||18|
Manchester City 2, Newcastle 0
City's two-goal victory was marked by controversy at St. James' Park, as referee Mike Jones disallowed a would-be equalizer in the 34th minute by Cheick Tiote. Teammate Yoan Gouffran was ruled to be in an offside position while interfering with an opponent, via PA Sport (h/t ESPN). You be the judge:
Clearly, Newcastle wasn't happy with the call, which played a huge role in the outcome of the contest.
In the end, Tiote's big blast was negated, and City maintained the 1-0 lead, earned on Edin Dzeko's strike from close range after connecting on an effective cross. Alvaro Negredo capped off the 2-0 victory by making a nice run and winning a one-on-one battle with Newcastle keeper Tim Krul.
While Tiote's wiped-out goal was the topic of discussion after the match, the victory was key for City. The club has now won six straight league contests heading into Saturday's match with Cardiff City.
Liverpool 5, Stoke City 3
The deadly duo of Daniel Sturridge and Suarez was reunited Sunday as Sturridge returned for the first time since injuring his ankle Nov. 23. While Suarez knocked home two more goals to bring his EPL-leading total to 22 in just 16 matches this season, Sturridge sealed the win with another score in the 87th minute.
The 24-year-old was happy to play such a big role in a Liverpool win, as he shared on Instagram after the match:
Britannia Stadium was the site for the high-drama affair which featured an early own goal to benefit Liverpool. Suarez pushed his club's lead to 2-0 after taking advantage of a defensive lapse by Stoke, outgunning two defenders and the keeper to knock through his first goal of the day.
Stoke City would tie it up before halftime with goals from Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam, but Liverpool took a commanding 4-2 lead in the second period with a successful penalty kick from Steven Gerrard and Suarez's second goal from close range.
After the match, Liverpool boss Brendan Rogers labeled Suarez as "near unplayable," via ESPN.co.uk. With a nine-goal lead over his next closest competition, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (13), Suarez is backing up his manager's claim.