Liverpool gained control of the Premier League title with a 3-2 win over Manchester City in a pulsating encounter at Anfield.
On the day when Liverpool paid respect to the 96 supporters who died at Hillsborough in 1989, the Reds produced a dynamic display that raises hope of a first title in the Premier League era.
Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel had Liverpool two to the good, only for City to produce a stirring fightback to draw level through David Silva and an own goal from Glen Johnson.
Liverpool regrouped, and Philippe Coutinho pounced on an error from Vincent Kompany to score the winner.
With four games remaining, 12 points will guarantee Liverpool their first title since 1990.
Steven Gerrard, who pulled his team to one side after the game and delivered a rousing rallying cry, spoke to Sky Sports after the game. The title is in focus, but the Reds captain is not getting carried away.
We need to keep calm. There are four big games to come, but that meant so much—especially when they got back into the game.
But we showed today we are going to go to the wire, to go all the way. Nothing is won yet, but that was probably the biggest statement we’ve made so far.
Kompany came into the game as an injury doubt and took to the field with a heavy strapping around his left knee, but he showed no indications of discomfort by making a couple of timely early interventions.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers went with a bold, attacking selection and was rewarded with a goal on six minutes. Luis Suarez demonstrated superb strength to brush off the challenges of Martin Demichelis and Gael Clichy—the latter tossed aside like a ragdoll—before slipping a pass into Sterling's path.
The youngster had plenty to do, but he produced an outrageous dummy that foxed both Kompany and City keeper Joe Hart before rolling the ball into an empty net.
FourFourTwo (@FourFourTwo) April 13, 2014
City’s first attacking moment arrived on 13 minutes as Yaya Toure fired well wide, but it came at a cost as the midfielder appeared to tweak his knee in his standing leg. He attempted to carry on but was forced off shortly afterward.
With City having only six games remaining in the season and the way Toure left the field, he could well be missing for a chunk of them. Given his influence, any absence could prove telling.
Joe Hart has had his critics this season, but he produced a quite brilliant save to deny Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool captain found space and powered a header on goal, but Hart was able to push the ball over.
Hart’s save was merely a delaying tactic, as from the following corner Liverpool doubled their lead on 26 minutes. Gerrard delivered a fizzing corner, Skrtel met it at pace and glanced the ball over the keeper and into the far corner.
A third could have followed minutes later as Liverpool’s rampaging attack had City at sixes and sevens. A brilliant pass from Coutinho set Suarez free. Not for the first time, he shrugged off Demichelis and flicked a pass toward Daniel Sturridge. He attempted to clip the ball back to Sterling, but Pablo Zabaleta was able to get back and clear.
City were in desperate need of a helping hand. They should have received it in the form of a penalty on 33 minutes. Mamadou Sakho hacked wildly at the ball but only made contact with Edin Dzeko. However, referee Mark Clattenburg, who was well-placed, somehow deemed the offence not to be a foul.
Having weathered a storm, City came into the game in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Glen Johnson had to clear off the line following a scramble, and Simon Mignolet produced a superb low save to deny Fernandinho.
Liverpool could, and very possibly should, have been reduced to 10 men shortly into the second half. Suarez, who had been booked in the first half, tumbled theatrically. It looked like a dive, but referee Clattenburg opted to give the benefit of the doubt to the Uruguayan.
Manuel Pellegrini made a change, throwing on James Milner for Jesus Navas, and City looked a much better side as a consequence.
On 57 minutes, City found a goal—and Milner was at the heart of it. He exchanged passes with Fernandinho, drove to the byline and pulled the ball back for Silva to tap home.
For the first time in the match, Liverpool looked shaky. A wild clearance from Skrtel was not punished, while a Milner cross flashed across the box.
A huge moment in the game arrived on the hour, as Sturridge burst clear. He had Suarez in space screaming for the ball but elected to go alone, and Zabaleta made a superb tackle.
Minutes later, City were level. Silva was the key, as he got to the byline and aimed a cross, which Johnson got a toe on and took it beyond his own keeper.
Clattenburg was put under pressure on 64 minutes, as Suarez tumbled in the box under challenge from Kompany. It was a clumsy challenge and could have cost a penalty, but the referee elected to give the benefit of any doubt to the defender.
So the player who takes a dive 10 minutes earlier is incandescent when ref refuses his claim for a penalty. What do they expect?— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) April 13, 2014
Silva is short in stature, but it has never hampered him at the highest level. On 75 minutes, the City camp would have wished he was one inch taller.
Substitute Sergio Aguero won the ball on the left and delivered a low cross toward Silva. The Spaniard was at full stretch but could only get the faintest of touches and the ball bobbled just wide.
Kompany is often the calmest figure on the pitch, but he had a rush of blood on 78 minutes that cost City dearly. A loose ball bounced his way in the box. Instead of a composed clearance, he took a wild hack and the ball fell to Coutinho.
The midfielder had a lot to do, but he made perfect contact and the ball curled at pace beyond Hart to put Liverpool back in front.
Liverpool held on, but there was a sting in the tail for the Reds as Jordan Henderson was sent off for a poor tackle on Nasri. He will miss three of the final four games of the season.
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