LIVERPOOL 2, MAN CITY 1
Manchester City could have blown their hopes of retaining their Barclays Premier League title following their defeat at Liverpool.
Certainly it was missed opportunity to heap pressure on league leaders Chelsea who could have seen their lead cut to two points had they triumphed.
With Chelsea playing in today’s final of the Capital One Cup, City had the chance to put pressure on the leaders.
But after the latest slip, City are still five points adrift of Chelsea who also had played one less game as Jose Mourinho’s men took another giant stride toward the title without ever kicking a ball in the league.
Spectacular goals from Jordan Henderson and Philipe Coutinho were worthy of winning any game as Liverpool moved up to fifth place as they built on the momentum built up in recent weeks.
It was a disappointing day for City, especially given they had two extra days to prepare as Liverpool were in Europa League action in Turkey on Thursday night.
But it was Liverpool who had more energy as City suffered a hangover from the defeat against Barcelona in midweek.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini refused to concede defeat in the title race saying: “No, we will never give up until the end. It will be more difficult, but hopefully we will recover.
“We must try and improve and win our next game – you never know what will happen in football.
“Liverpool scored two very good goals and we missed three clear chances. It was a very close game.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is delighted with the momentum his team has built up.
“I believe if we finish in the top four this season it will be an even bigger achievement to last season after our start and the fact we have also created a new team,” he said.
City made four changes from the side which kicked off the midweek Champions League round of 16 match against Barcelona as Pellegrini went with the same side which put five goals past Newcastle in their last league game.
Yaya Toure returned after suspension while there were recalls for Eliaquim Mangala and Aleksandar Kolarov in defence and Fernandinho in midfield. The players to miss out were Gael Clichy, Martin Demichelis, Fernando and James Milner.
Liverpool were still without the injured Steven Gerrard while manager Brendan Rodgers packed the midfield with Daniel Sturridge, Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli providing an abundance of firepower on the bench.
Liverpool made a terrific start and could have been ahead before Henderson put them in front in the 11th minute.
Adam Lallana was put clean through only to be denied by a diving save from Joe Hart and the same player had a goal ruled out for offside as he found the net from the tightest of angles.
The breakthrough came from Coutinho and Raheem Sterling linked to feed Henderson who cut inside before seeing his shot from outside the box loop over the head of Hart into the top corner or the net for his fourth goal of the season.
City were almost immediately on level terms when Sergio Aguero conjured a goal attempt out of nothing to strike the upright with keeper Simon Mignolet beaten.
The equaliser came in the 26th minute after a neat passing move ended with Aguero providing the assist, a delightful through ball to release Dzeko who slotted the ball low past Mignolet for only his sixth goal of a disappointing season for City.
It was developing into a captivating contest as Lallana volleyed just wide as Liverpool came close to regaining the lead while in stoppage time Sterling had a chance as Hart managed to keep out his effort.
The start to the second half was equally exciting as Aguero headed just over within 30 seconds while Sterling failed to connect properly with a Lallana cross and scuffed his shot wide.
Lallana then had a second goal chalked out for offside as Liverpool remained a threat going forward.
Liverpool were eventually rewarded for their efforts when they regained the lead with 15 minutes left after Coutinho scored a goal as spectacular as Henderson’s opener.
The Brazilian cut in along the 18-yard line before curling a shot hit into the top far corner of the net, his fifth goal if the season.
It was proving not to be Aguero’s day as he fired wide across the face of goal after wriggling free after a mazy run.
Liverpool ought to have sealed victory with three minutes left when Henderson dispossessed Toure and released substitute Sturridge who fired wide when he looked odds on to find the net.
But they were hardly troubled in the latter stages as City lacked ideas and rarely looked like taking anything from the game.