Brendan Rodgers credited the atmosphere at Anfield on Sunday as a key component in Liverpool's 3-2 victory over Manchester City, which keeps them at the top of the league and in pole position to claim the Premier League title.
With pre-match tributes on the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, the Liverpool manager felt the emotion of the occasion inspired his side to victory.
Manchester City now sit seven points behind the Reds in third with two games in hand. However, if Liverpool win their four remaining games then they will pick up their first title since 1990.
Rodgers believes his side showed their quality on Sunday, per Sky Sports:
I thought we were incredible today. The world watching saw a team with so much spirit, so much quality.
The atmosphere...down on pitchside it was incredible. There's always an emotive side around this time, but it was an inspiration for us rather than something to hold us back.
Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel put Liverpool up 2-0 within 26 minutes and they looked to be in control of the game after the first half.
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However, Manuel Pelligrini's side came out fighting for the second period. David Silva's strike from six yards, as well as a bizarre own goal from Glen Johnson, saw City draw even at 2-2 just after the hour.
The momentum looked to have moved in the Sky Blues' favor and it seemed as though Liverpool might end the game having lost the initiative in the title race.
However, a calamitous sliced clearance from City skipper Vincent Kompany fell to Philippe Coutinho, who shot instinctively and scored from 18 yards to claim Liverpool's 10th consecutive victory.
However, City's Chilean manager did not feel that his side deserved to lose at Anfield. As reported on City's official website, Pellegrini thought his side dominated in the second half:
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.
The Manchester outfit will now need to rely on other teams to take points off Liverpool if they want to claim their second Premier League title in three seasons.
Yaya Toure left the field early on in the game and NESN Soccer reports that Pellegrini is concerned he will not be able to play again this season:
This will be a big blow for City as Toure has been their top scorer in the league this season with 18 goals, per BBC Sport.
Pellegrini's suggestion that Liverpool benefitted from referee Mark Clattenburg's decisions was not echoed by Rodgers, per the Guardian's Daniel Taylor:
Rodgers not accepting any suggestion LFC got rub of the green. "Credit to the ref . . I thought the ref, in a big game, was excellent."— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) April 13, 2014
And concerning Daniel Sturridge, who limped off towards the end of the game, Rodgers said that the extent of the injury was not yet established, per Agence France-Presse's Tom Williams:
Brendan Rodgers says Daniel Sturridge has "a wee bit of tightness in his hamstring". "We'll see over the next couple of days."— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) April 13, 2014
Liverpool will have to be at their best if they want to close out the season and claim the league title. They face relegation-threatened Norwich in their next league game followed by a home game against fellow title-contenders Chelsea.
Mourinho's side now pose the most significant threat to Liverpool's title ambitions and will potentially provide an even stronger test for Rodgers' side than City.
Victory over Chelsea would make Liverpool clear favorites for the title with only two games left after the clash on April 27.