There are moments in every season that feel seismic in their importance, and the reaction of the Liverpool players and supporters at the end of their 3-2 win over Manchester City suggests they feel this result was one of them. Liverpool, who have now won 10 Premier League matches in succession, have one hand on the trophy.
They are looking to become the first side since Everton in 1984 to jump from a seventh-place finish to league champions in the space of 12 months. In fact, since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, the biggest rise up the standings any club has managed is third to first. Mobility of the kind Liverpool are demonstrating is unheard of in modern times.
Brendan Rodgers’ side are attempting to make history and the momentum appears to be with them. There was a feeling inside Anfield this afternoon that this is their time to end their 24-year wait to add to their 18 league titles. The players, the staff and the fans are all united in their belief.
The football almost felt like a sideshow after the pre-match build up paid respect to the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough 25 years ago. It was a fitting tribute by a club keenly aware of the importance of their history, and a minute's silence was impeccably observed by everybody inside this great stadium.
The fear was the game wouldn’t live up to the hype, but any doubts were soon allayed. This was an absorbing contest befitting of the occasion. Two form sides, both intent on attacking the opposition, with the initiative in the title race at stake—this match had all the ingredients and the players produced a classic.
Liverpool were the dominant force in the first-half and thoroughly deserved to go in two goal up at half-time, with the atmosphere and occasion appearing to affect the visitors. The home side were quicker to every ball and stronger in the tackle, with willing runners all over the pitch stretching City's defence, who were all over the place for the first 30 minutes.
They pressed hard and high up the field, denying City any space or time to get their rhythm going. It was a masterclass in how to approach a big game, and goals from Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel gave them the advantage.
City, who lost Yaya Toure with a suspected hamstring injury inside 20 minutes, had a penalty claim from Edin Dzeko turned down, with the Bosnian's theatrics not helping his cause, and late in the half Fernandinho's low shot was well saved by Simon Mignolet. City may have been outplayed, but there were signs towards the end of the half that they were still alive.
And so it proved. They were a completely different side in the second-half, and managed to get themselves level after just over an hour.
Their first was a wonderfully worked goal finished by David Silva following excellent work from substitute James Milner down the right. Milner may be maligned at international level, but his importance to City was underlined again here with another superb cameo in a big game.
At this stage, Silva was running the game, continuing his fine run of form in recent weeks. He's a magnificent player who always wants the ball and looks to create space, and the Liverpool defenders, like so many before them, were struggling to contain him.
City's second was an own goal by Glen Johnson after a move involving Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Milner and Silva. The tide had turned and City appeared to be in the ascendency.
But a woeful sliced clearance from captain Vincent Kompany late in the game fell to the outstanding Philippe Coutinho, who hit the ball first time past Joe Hart in the City goal.
There have been few more important goals scored at Anfield in recent seasons.
A late penalty claim after Skrtel appeared to punch the ball clear was turned down. This was Liverpool's day.
Pellegrini told reporters after the match:
We lost a game that we didn’t deserve to lose.
We played very well in the second half and the last 15 minutes of the first half. We had clear chances to score.
In the second half there was just one side in it.
We scored two goals and had two or three clear chances to score more and a very clear penalty when Skrtel handled, but we made a mistake and they won the game.
There's no question that Rodgers' men are now in the driving seat and the momentum is theirs. Their aggressive style of play in home games is difficult to combat—this was their fifth win five over fellow top seven sides—and confidence runs through every player.
However, City aren't out if it. They have two games in hand and can move to within one point of the leaders, who still have to play Jose Mourinho's Chelsea. The Portuguese manager prides himself tactically outfoxing his rivals in big games, and it would hardly be a surprise if they came away from Anfield with at least a point.
Liverpool are in the ascendency but nothing has been won yet.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.
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