A howler from Simon Mignolet gifted Manchester City all three points at the Etihad.
Liverpool, top on Christmas Day, drop to fourth whilst City climb to a point behind new leaders, Arsenal, in second.
1. Arsenal – P18, W12, D3, L3 – POINTS 39
2. Manchester City – P18, W12, D2, L4 – POINTS 38
3. Chelsea – P18, W11, D4, L3 – POINTS 37
4. Liverpool – P18, W11, D3, L4 – POINTS 36
Man City continued their 100% record at home in the league this season, but in the words of Vincent Kompany it was the ‘hardest game they had so far’. This is probably true, as Liverpool got off to a flying start in the 24th minute when Phillipe Coutinho slotted the ball into an open goal following a stunning team move. Liverpool were in dream land – for 7 minutes, as Vincent Kompany, Manchester City’s captain fantastic, headed the ball home just after the half hour mark.
City scored what turned out to be the winner when right on half time, a swift counter attack broke Liverpool down before Alvaro Negredo’s poor shot was palmed into an empty net by Simon Mignolet, much to the disappointment of the travelling Liverpool fans. That was Negredo’s eighth goal in nine games at home this season!
However, Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers will have many positives to take home with them from the game, as they created many chances, no better than Raheem Sterling’s attempt on an open goal from a few yards out. He blazed it over. Luis Suarez did not get his name on the scoresheet, but was threatening all game.
Manuel Pellegrini will regard this as evidence that they can go on to win back their title that they lost last season, whilst Rodgers will be satisfied that they can live comfortably alongside such strong teams.
Another big plus for City was an excellent performance from keeper Joe Hart, who saved from Coutinho and Jordan Henderson either side of half time.
City started quickly, but Liverpool grew into the game, demonstrating an attacking flair that the Reds have been showing all season. Their attacking movement paid off, when Luis Suarez played in Raheem Sterling, and the young man rounded the keeper and slotted the ball home. However, to Rodger’s dismay, Sterling was flagged incorrectly offside, a decision which Rodgers called horrendous, and questioned why a referee from Greater Manchester was officiating the clash.
Sterling was involved again, this time resulting in a ‘real’ goal, when skipper Suarez’s flick played him in, who then rounded Hart and stood aside as Coutinho arrived to turn the ball into an empty net on an angle.
However, City were level inside seven minutes. Kompany escaped the shurt-pulling of Martin Skrtel to head David Silva’s corner down and past Mignolet.
Then, some outstanding work by Hart at the end of another wonderful spell of Liverpool passing kept City on level terms. Suarez and Jordan Henderson were the creators as Coutinho pounced, but Hart was down low to his left to save.
City, as ever, were a constant threat on the attack but as the second half progressed it was Liverpool who made the better chances.
Glen Johnson’s poor control allowed Hart to block at his near post before the keeper got down to grab a flick from Henderson.
The best chance fell to Sterling with 18 minutes left when Suarez ran down the left flank and set the youngster up with what looked a like a simple finish from eight yards, only for him to place an effort over the top.
Suarez had appeals for a penalty turned down in the closing minutes. He had his shirt tugged by Lescott but his dramatic reaction may have persuaded referee Lee Mason not to give a penalty.
Liverpool fans would feel frustrated and hard done by by the result, but City fans must feel relieved and sense a title coming back to the Etihad!
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