Advantage Liverpool as Man City taste defeat at Anfield
Philippe Coutinho scores the winner after home side surrender two-goal lead to title rivals
Steven Gerrard (left) rushes to congratulate Philippe Coutinho after the Brazilian scores what turned out to be Liverpool’s winner against Manchester City at Anfield. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Liverpool 3 Manchester City 2
These are the moments when Liverpool, to borrow a line from the kaleidoscope of banners fluttering on the Kop, are making their supporters dream. When it really mattered, when the heat of the battle was rising dangerously close to intolerable, they found something extra just as it seemed everything might be starting to unravel. They played like champions and in the next few weeks that is feasibly what they could be.
Manchester City made it clear with their second-half comeback that it might still need Liverpool to win all their last four matches. One of those games comes against Chelsea, who will be aggrieved by any suggestion that the title is all but confirmed for Anfield. Yet all the momentum is with Liverpool after this epic and brilliant match in which they still had the competitive courage to win despite seeing their 2-0 half-time lead wiped out.
What a moment it was for this club, marking the 25th anniversary for Hillsborough, when Philippe Coutinho drew back his right foot 12 minutes from the end to thump an elegant shot inside Joe Hart’s post.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was on the pitch in a modern-day re-enactment of Brian Kidd’s famous celebration at Manchester United for the first of Alex Ferguson’s titles. This time Kidd was in the opposite dugout and, for City, it was a traumatic goal after everything that had preceded it in the second half.
They had looked like the more likely winners after Glen Johnson’s own goal had levelled the match five minutes after David Silva had initiated the comeback from James Milner’s cross.
Milner’s arrival as a substitute had changed the complexion of the match and Silva was outstanding in those moments when – for the first time – there was a sudden, damp silence to break the din.
City will look back with anguish on those chances that Silva and Edin Dzeko passed up at that stage. They will also harbour legitimate grievances about the penalties that should have been awarded in the first and second half and the referee Mark Clattenburg’s failure to show Luis Suárez a second yellow card. Jordan Henderson was sent off in stoppage time for a studs-up lunge on Samir Nasri but Suarez, already booked, really should have gone earlier for a blatant dive.
Yet Manuel Pellegrini’s side ultimately paid a heavy price for gambling on Vincent Kompany’s fitness when the knee injury he suffered in training could probably be held up as Exhibit A while trying to explain why, in the biggest match of their season, they defended with this much generosity.
Kompany, the captain and leader of this team, was still being assessed in the pre-match warm-up and was simply unable to exert his usual influence. He was at fault for all three goals and the third of them, when his sliced clearance went straight to Coutinho, was particularly harrowing because of its consequences.