Manchester City vs. Liverpool: Final score 2-1, Citizens dodge multiple bullets

Jan Kruger

Liverpool had seemingly endless chances to score against Manchester City, but failed to capitalize after their early opening goal, eventually falling to City due to some appalling finishing and a goalkeeping error.

Liverpool turned in an excellent performance between the boxes against Manchester City on Boxing Day, but they'll want back the numerous mistakes that they made at either end. Despite their solid defending -- at least for a game away to City -- and some brilliant chances, they fell 2-1 to the Citizens due to poor goalkeeping and finishing.

City got off to a fast start with Jesus Navas hitting the bar just four minutes into the contest, but the rest of the game's first half-hour belonged to Liverpool. Raheem Sterling was incorrectly called offside in the 19th minute when he was clear in on goal, but he'd help Liverpool make up for it just five minutes later, on a similar move. He beat the City defense on a flick in behind by Luis Suarez, then left the ball for Coutinho to finish from close range to put the Reds ahead.

While City had been the much less threatening team from open play to this point, they were able to find an equalizer through a set piece. Martin Skrtel couldn't have been marking Vincent Kompany any tighter on the goal -- he was tugging on the City defender's shirt and might have been whistled for a penalty if Kompany didn't score -- but Kompany still got his head onto the ball and beat Simon Mignolet, leveling the match after 31 minutes.

Joe Hart came up with a big save on Coutinho in the 40th minute, and it ended up being a decisive moment. Just before the whistle blew for halftime, City hit back with a brilliant counter, though Mignolet should have done more on Alvaro Negredo's shot. Navas set up the chance with a brilliant diagonal pass on the ground to Negredo that split two defenders, but Negredo's swerving shot wasn't hit with much power or far over Mignolet's head. The Liverpool goalkeeper misjudged it and got a weak hand to it, deflecting the shot but failing to keep it out of the back of the net.

With the lead and Liverpool's constant first-half threats in mind, City got more conservative in the second half, dropping their defense deeper and asking Yaya Toure to keep an eye on Suarez. It worked for the most part, but Liverpool still had numerous second-half chances. Jordan Henderson inadvertently stopped his team from equalizing in the 51st minute, blocking a Suarez shot while he was in an offside position. Liverpool also failed to capitalize on a pair of golden opportunities just after the 70th minute, with Johnson and Sterling each missing absolute sitters from close range.

City bunkered as the half wore on, restricting space for Liverpool, and they never got a better chance to score than the one Sterling squandered in the 73rd minute. The visitors created an astonishing number of quality chances at Etihad Stadium, but somehow managed to leave with no points.

Manchester City: Hart, Kolarov, Lescott, Kompany, Zabaleta, Fernandinho, Toure, Nasri (Milner 72'), Silva (Garcia 87'), Navas, Negredo (Dzeko 77')

Goals: Kompany (31'), Negredo (45')

Liverpool: Mignolet, Cissokho, Sahko, Skrtel, Johnson, Lucas (Aspas 82'), Allen, Henderson, Coutinho (Moses 68'), Suarez, Sterling

Goals: Coutinho (24')

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