MAN CITY 2, LIVERPOOL 1
Manchester City were subjected to their most robust examination of the season at the Etihad Stadium before seeing off the threat of Liverpool to climb into second spot in the Barclays Premier League.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side was forced to battle from behind before goals from captain Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo made it nine straight home league victories in which they have scored a remarkable 37 goals.
It was a compelling battle, especially the electrifying opening period, as Liverpool would have gone top had they triumphed for the first time on Boxing Day since 2009.
Indeed, had Liverpool not had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside and had they displayed a more ruthless cutting edge, they could well have recorded the win which would have taken them to the top of the table.
Pellegrini was delighted with the win saying:”It was an important win because Liverpool were the best team in the Premier League.
“They were top before the match and, if they had won, they would have been four points above our team.
“It was important when we were losing 1-0 to have the personality. I was very happy with the response as it was not easy to play against a counter-attacking team.
“We defended very well against Suarez who is a great striker. It was important for our team not to lose concentration for one second.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers thought his side was let down by the officials saying they were “horrendous.”
“I was very proud of my players. They were outstanding, but we not helped by the officials who were horrendous. Nothing went our way and I am disappointed not to have won,” he said.
City came within a whisker of taking a fifth-minute lead when a header from Jesus Navas struck the upright following a left-wing cross from Aleksandar Kolarov.
It was all City as Kompany headed narrowly wide from a Samir Nasri corner while Yaya Toure’s shot failed to find the target.
Luis Suarez, who has scored a Premier League record 10 goals in December, had a couple of goal attempts in quick succession, heading wide and then firing a free kick straight at keeper Joe Hart.
City had an almighty let off in the 19th minute when Raheem Sterling was put clean through by Suarez, but was flagged for offside when replays showed Kolarov had clearly had played him on.
There was no escape five minutes later, though, when Liverpool took the lead. Sterling was put clear again by Suarez and rounded Hart before the ball ran free to Phillipe Coutinho who slotted home the loose ball from a tight angle.
It was only the second goal of the season from the Brazilian.
City equalised in the31st minute when Kompany beat Martin Skrtel to head home a corner from David Silva despite the best efforts of Joe Allen to clear the ball off the goalline. It was also his second goal of the campaign.
Hart came to City’s rescue with a fine save to deny Coutinho after Sterling and Suarez had linked to release the midfield man.
City regained the lead in first half stoppage time when Negredo netted his 14th goal of the season and scored in his ninth straight home match. He was released by a diagonal pass from Navas and his shot was only palmed into the net by keeper Simon Mignolet.
Liverpool made a lively start to the second half in which they had three decent chances to draw level as City were forced on to the back foot with Suarez giving Joleon Lescott a torrid time.
They remained a threat as Glen Johnson would almost certainly have made it 2-2 but for a poor first touch in front of goal while a cheeky back heel from Jordan Henderson forced a decent save from Hart.
Liverpool should have levelled in the 73rd minute when Suarez opened their defence with a low cross from the left but Sterling ballooned his shot over the crossbar from six yards.
City brought on James Milner, Edin Dzeko and Javi Garcia in the final 18 minutes to provide added defensive steel as they clung on to their slender advantage. It was also the first time they had scored less than three goals in a home Premier League game this season.