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Liverpool vs. Manchester City: Final score 3-2, Reds squeak out a classic

On the day that the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster was observed at Anfield, Liverpool put together a big performance to defeat Manchester City, even after throwing away a two-goal lead.

Alex Livesey

Liverpool lead the Premier League after a dramatic victory at Anfield. They let Manchester City come from two goals down to level the match, but Philippe Coutinho capitalized on a big chance given away by Vincent Kompany late in the second half, firing Liverpool to a 3-2 lead, which they managed to hold on to despite going down to 10 men.

With the Anfield crowd understandably louder than usual, given both the sentimental and sporting value of the occasion, Liverpool started extremely strong. City could hardly get a hold of the ball in the opening minutes, and when the hosts got on the board six minutes in, their goal felt well-deserved.

Luis Suarez found Raheem Sterling for the goal, playing him into the penalty area with a brilliant through ball. But as good as the pass was, there was plenty of work left to do for Sterling after the ball found his feet. He juked Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart, who looked like mirror images of each other as they shuffled towards the far post in perfect harmony, leaving Sterling an empty net to finish into at the near post.

The situation gradually got worse for Manchester City as the first half-hour of the match wore on. Yaya Toure injured himself on a shot in the 14th minute and had to exit the match, with Javi Garcia replacing him. That was a serious setback for the Citizens, who continued to struggle with stringing passes together and winning the ball from Liverpool in midfield. In the 26th minute, the Reds doubled their lead.

Hart made a brilliant save on a header by Steven Gerrard just before that goal, but there was nothing he could do on the resulting corner. Martin Skrtel, who has been uncharacteristically deadly on set pieces this season, rose to meet the ball on the edge of the six-yard box and directed a perfect header past Hart at his far post.

City were better from then until the end of the half, but couldn't turn their improved play into a goal before the break. Mamadou Sahko nearly gave away a penalty with a wild challenge on Edin Dzeko in the 33rd minute, but was lucky to miss the Citizens' striker completely. City's best first-half chance came in the 45th minute, when Simon Mignolet made an excellent save on a volley by Fernandinho.

James Milner replaced Jesus Navas in the 50th minute, and that substitution proved to be a crucial one for the visitors, sparking a comeback bid. The right winger brought his team back into the match with a great run down the flank and a low cross for David Silva, who finished from close range to bring City within one goal of Liverpool in the 57th minute.

Five minutes later, City were level, and under extremely lucky circumstances. Silva looked for a cutback towards the center of the box from the left wing, but his pass hit off the heel of Glen Johnson, redirecting it towards the goal. Mignolet wasn't ready to deal with the deflection and could only get a small piece of the ball before it bounced past him into the back of the net.

At this point, it appeared that Liverpool were suffering the same fate that City did in the first half, where everything that could go wrong would. Right after the equalizing goal, Daniel Sturridge was forced to come off injured.

Joe Allen entered in Sturridge's place, taking some of the defensive responsibility away from Coutinho and solidifying the Liverpool midfield. Even if that substitution was forced, it ended up having a positive impact. Just 10 minutes after the move was made, Coutinho scored the winner.

The opportunity was an absolute gift for the Brazilian, stunningly handed to him by Kompany, the Manchester City captain. He whiffed on what should have been a simple clearance and the ball fell directly into the path of Coutinho, who instinctively smashed a gorgeous volley past Hart, eliciting an explosion of noise from the Kop.

City were aggressive in the final minutes and got plenty of help from the officiating crew when five minutes of stoppage time were added at the end of the half. They also got to play the last two minutes of the game against 10 men when Jordan Henderson was given a deserved straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Nasri, but they never managed to find an equalizer.

Now, even with two games in hand, City are no longer in control of their own title destiny. Liverpool are top of the league, and if they win the remainder of their games, they'll be champions for the first time in the Premier League era.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan, Sahko, Skrtel, Johnson, Gerrard, Coutinho (Moses 89'), Henderson (red 90'), Sterling (Lucas 90'), Sturridge (Allen 66'), Suarez

Goals: Sterling (6'), Skrtel (26'), Coutinho (77')

Manchester City: Hart, Clichy, Demichelis, Kompany, Zabaleta, Toure (Garcia 19'), Fernandinho, Nasri, Silva, Navas (Milner 50'), Dzeko (Aguero 68')

Goals: Silva (57'), Johnson (OG 62')