Liverpool close in on title after a day to remember at Anfield
Steven Gerrard in tears after massive win leaves Reds just four games away from league triumph
Liverpool 3 Manchester City 2. Liverpool are just four games away from their first Premier League title in 24 years after a thrilling 3-2 victory over Manchester City that left Steven Gerrard in tears. The Reds have never actually won the Premier League as their last title triumph was in the days of the old First Division when football was still the sick man of British sport.
That 1990 title came just a year after the Hillsborough disaster and memories of the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives on that terrible day were in the forefront of everyone's minds at Anfield on Sunday a quarter of a century later. "We live with Hillsborough every day," admitted Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. "The families and the victims are in our thoughts every day. It was an inspiration for us, rather than something that held us back. We will remember them again at the memorial service but today it was about creating a different memory."
And that's exactly what the Reds did, storming into a 2-0 lead in the opening half hour with goals from Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel as City looked a shadow of the team that has swept aside most Premier League opponents this season. They weren't helped by an injury to Yaya Toure on 19 minutes but even without his withdrawal the Sky Blues were struggling to live with their hosts.
Rodgers described his side's performance in the first half as "outstanding" but even he must have been taken aback by the transformation of City in the second period. The introduction of James Milner for Jesus Navas changed the shape of the City side and on 57 minutes they pulled a goal back when David Silva fired home from close range. Five minutes later the Sky Blues were level when Glen Johnson deflected Silva's cross past Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal. Then on came Sergio Aguero for Dzeko and the Argentine almost teed up Silva for City's third.
Liverpool survived and soon demonstrated that they could handle the pressure in what is turning into the most gripping title race for years. With just 12 minutes remaining Vincent Kompany's sliced clearance landed at the feet of Phillippe Coutinho, and his low drive beat the despairing dive of Joe Hart for the winning goal.
The final minutes were fast and furious, with Liverpool's Jordan Henderson sent off for a wild foul on Samir Nasri and Martin Skrtel lucky not to be penalized for handling the ball in the area in stoppage time. "There was a clear penalty when Martin Skrtel had a handball," said Manuel Pellegrini, although the City manager took nothing away from Liverpool's performance. "It was a very pretty match as it was two teams who like to attack. We deserved a better result... [but] they also played very well."
Asked if he believed City, who are now seven points behind Liverpool with two games in hand, are still in with a shot of winning the title, Pellegrini reminded reporters that Rodgers' side must play Chelsea in a fortnight's time. "The title does not finish today," he added. "We are still going to fight. A lot of things will happen between now and the end of the season."
That was also the message from an overwrought Steven Gerrard, who was just nine when Liverpool won their last title. But his passion and determination to claim the title was evident after he gave his team-mates a rousing pep talk in an impromptu huddle after the final whistle.
Refusing to divulge what he told the other players, he instead stated the obvious. "We have got four cup games left," said the Reds' skipper. "People said that the biggest one was Manchester City but I disagree, the big one now is Norwich [on Sunday]. Nothing is ours yet."