“This is gone, we go to Norwich, exactly the same”. The words of Steven Gerrard. A man possessed with a mission, a man with Liverpool FC in his veins, in his heart and in his soul. His words summed up the fact that the team, although close to the biggest prize, don’t quite have the grip on it that proclaims them as Champions of the Barclays Premier League. Liverpool overcame the title favourites Manchester City this afternoon at Anfield in an enthralling and emotional afternoon at Anfield. The level of the performance equalled the impeccable respect, paid to the memories of 96 Liverpool supporters who lost their lives almost 25 years to the day at the Leppings Lane stand at Sheffield United’s Hillsborough Stadium. The resolve of the team epitomised the vigour with which the search for justice has been fought.
The captain’s reaction to the final whistle after an excruciating five minutes of added time at the end of the 90 summed up the relief, jubilation, emotion and indeed motivation that was felt by a packed Anfield and the undoubted tens of millions watching across the globe. The 3-2 victory against Manuel Pellegrini’s side signalled Brendan Rodger’s men coming from title hopefuls to title probables and the heart-felt team huddle that ensued confirmed what we all knew going into this match. Rodgers and his men believe. They intend to win this title – against any odds and obstacles that come before them.
From the opening whistle, Liverpool set about their visitors with a purpose and application that showed they were going to have to work extremely hard and be at their very best if they were going to get anything at all from their hosts. After six minutes there was no better proof than the opening goal from the home side. Raheem Sterling remained calm under pressure from Vincent Kompany after picking up Luis Suarez’s through ball, jinking this way and that, before slotting past the helpless Joe Hart. 1-0 to the home side. The die had been cast. Liverpool were not content to rest on their laurels. The effect of an early goal against their opponents in their last meeting was clearly something Rodgers’ side has learned from and wanted to avoid. Respect was given but not liberty.
City were struggling to keep pace with the home side as Liverpool overran them in their now customary style. Two more chances went begging. The first on 14 minutes after more good work on the right wing from Sterling, who is growing into a more and more complete attacker with every game, culminating with a perfect early cross into the run of Daniel Sturridge between the two City centre backs. Unfortunately, the Reds striker could not punish his former team as his first time shot fizzed past Hart’s right hand upright. Again the red wave continued and on 25 minutes, Philippe Coutinho’s corner was met by a thunderous, point-blank header from Gerrard that was exquisitely pushed over from Hart. The visitors demonstrating they were not going to be “Arsenal’d” today.
The resulting corner however, led to Liverpool extending their lead. Gerrard’s corner from the left revealed the frailties of the visitors’ defending at set pieces. Martin Skrtel escaped the close attention of Kompany to flick a header back across goal and past the helpless Hart. The home side were now firmly in the driving seat, and City, like many before them this season succumbing to the venomous Anfield attack. Inevitably, the pressure subsided and Pellegrini’s men began to claw their way back into the game as half-time approached. With a minute of injury time remaining, the visitors almost struck back. The diminutive Sterling heading off the line from Kompany’s headed connection with Samir Nasri’s corner. Seconds later, Simon Mignolet dived smartly to his right to deny Fernandinho an almost certain goal.
Pellegrini sent out a different side in the second half and on 57 minutes the visitors were back in the game when David Silva converted James Milner’s cross. Five minutes later the visitors were level when the busy Silva shot across goal for Glen Johnson’s deflection to take the ball past Mignolet. Game on. The pendulum swung back Liverpool’s way on 78 minutes when Kompany’s suicidal sliced clearance in the city goal area landed in space for Coutinho to shoot first time past Hart. The hosts had restored their lead. Manchester City to their credit refused to lie down and continued to attack but to no avail. A clear penalty was missed by Mark Clattenberg late on when Skrtel handled the ball in the home penalty box and Jordan Henderson was dismissed for a reckless challenge in the dying minutes.
The final whistle blew after 95 minutes and a nail-biting finish to a frantic closing few minutes. Liverpool were jubilant. Manchester City, despondent. This helter skelter of a Premiership Season has taken not just, another twist, but another turn. A huge turn “The Other Guys” are now, “The Main Guys”. Brendan Rodgers men have the finish line in sight and victory is within reach. As Gerrard said, this game is over now. The City has been conquered. The Kop sang. Next.
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