Countinho kills off two-horse race
(Jordan Henderson 11, Philippe Coutinho 75)
MAN CITY 1
(Edin Dzeko 25)
In the end, it was a close shave settled by a Brazilian.
Philippe Coutinho has turned into a serial killer. He killed Southampton last week and has now massacred Manchester City twice in consecutive seasons.
With an incisive swish of his blade, the Brazilian has cut Manuel Pellegrini's title campaign to ribbons.
Now there really will be blood. Pellegrini must pay the highest price for his tactical ineptitude. His head will roll at the end of the season after Coutinho rocked Anfield last night.
When the Brazilian beat Joe Hart, he broke every blue heart in Manchester. Mathematical heads may argue otherwise, but shattered hearts will overrule.
Coutinho killed off the two-horse race and kept Liverpool's top-four chances alive. He's breathed life into the Reds' campaign and left City on life support.
He played both dream goalkeeper and grim reaper with one of those magical moments that Liverpool will remember just as easily as the lyrics of "You'll Never Walk Alone" for years to come.
In the 75th minute, the impudent South American drifted inside from the left, floated across the Anfield turf and eased the ball onto his right foot.
He shaped up to shoot. He eyed Hart's position.
And he unleashed hell across Manchester.
His shot whipped and curled and accelerated towards the top corner with an artistry that belonged in a frame at the Singapore Art Museum.
He launched a missile and left City with a problem.
They can't beat Liverpool when it matters. They can't beat anyone when it matters. They are paper champions, unable to defend the title and incapable of building that elusive dynasty.
Heavy lies the crown in the City dressing room, but they need not fear. They won't have to bear the burden for much longer.
Two sumptuous goals earned Liverpool a deserved victory and left City chasing Chelsea's shadow once more.
In this fixture last season, Jordan Henderson left the field in disgrace. His red card robbed Liverpool of their protection for Steven Gerrard. He missed the next three games. The Reds lost the title race.
But the stand-in skipper made amends within 11 minutes. He wanted redemption. He found it in the top corner.
Vincent Kompany conceded possession outside his box. In a torrid tale of two skippers, the City leader is playing the villain with aplomb; another day, another howling error.
Fernandinho's hospital pass never helped, but Kompany's mis-hit clearance was disastrous. Coutinho and Raheem Sterling seized on the blunder and fed Henderson.
He slashed a vicious, swerving drive into the top corner. The Kop erupted. Vindication rarely looked so fabulous.
Sergio Aguero found the woodwork moments later, but Simon Mignolet's post wasn't as rattled as much as City. They offered no protection down their right side and their skipper was a wobbling jelly of jitters at centre back.
How Pellegrini has avoided serious scrutiny about his side's shortcomings for so long will be seriously questioned now. He may not even survive until May.
But Liverpool's spine was not without weakness.
Their obvious lack of a natural defensive midfielder was cruelly exposed, when City carved out an exquisite equaliser in the 25th minute.
In congested space, David Silva dropped a shoulder just outside the box and dropped most of the men in front of him like red-shirted skittles.
Silva threaded through to Aguero, who offered a flashback to an old Harlem Globetrotters highlights reel with a wonderful reverse ball to Edin Dzeko, who knocked his finish beneath Mignolet.
The early goals hinted at a blockbuster, but the demoralising defeats in Europe had clearly taken a toll.
Pellegrini's insistence on the same 4-4-2 formation that was gleefully chewed on and spat out by the voracious Catalan side left City looking predictable.
Invention was offered only in flashes from Silva, but they were otherwise mostly uninspiring. Samir Nasri offered no defensive cover for the exposed Pablo Zabaleta and even less attacking impetus for the isolated Aguero.
At times, it was genuinely hard to believe that the men in pale blue shirts were the champions of England. Collectively, they are pale imitations of their former swashbuckling selves.
For Liverpool, fatigue inevitably came to the fore. The after-effects of that other night in Istanbul took their toll, with Dejan Lovren practically comatose.
He was a glaring weak spot that City failed to exploit. Instead, they faded away. The lethargy was alarming, but the absence of any semblance of industry or inspiration was appalling.
Coutinho's intervention was unexpected, but thoroughly deserved.
Every defeat at this stage hurts for City.
But, coming so soon after the Barcelona farce, the Brazilian cut the deepest.
We showed great character to stay in the game and Coutinho won it for us with a fantastic goal.
— Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson, who scored a stunning opener himself
The little magician Coutinho came up with a wonderful goal. With players like that, we’ll go far.
— Reds midfielder Adam Lallana
Coutinho is a joy to watch. He’s a kid who has so much ahead of him in the game. He’s a sensational footballer.
— Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers
Rodgers hails wonder goals
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers savoured "two wonderful moments", after long-range strikes from Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho earned a 2-1 win over Manchester City at Anfield.
Henderson rifled in an early opener and Coutinho, making a habit of scoring outstanding goals, provided the winner in the 75th minute after Edin Dzeko had brought City level.
Defeat was a huge blow to City's hopes of retaining the Premier League title, but boosted Liverpool's prospects of a top-four finish.
Rodgers (above) said his players had returned from their Europa League defeat by Besiktas at 4.30am on Friday morning, and had been allowed to sleep through the day, returning to training on Saturday.
"To come out and play like that as they did today, to restrict City to one shot on target. I thought the players were incredible. They deserve all the praise they get for the performance and the result," Rodgers said.
"The character of this team was questioned at the beginning of the season. That was never the case. They've worked - and they're getting the results from that.
"To keep it going right the way through 90 minutes, I was so pleased with the players."
Asked about the Liverpool goals, he said: "It was two wonderful moments."
The Coutinho finish was particularly pleasing to Rodgers.
"We said he has to improve his goals because of the quality he has," said the Liverpool boss.
"He's now shooting like a proper Brazilian."
City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who defended his team selection, admitted his players failed to control the game.
"Playing two up front at Anfield was the best decision," he said.
"It was a close game and they won the game when we had one striker on.
"I'm concerned that we are losing the ball too much - pressure is a factor. There is much we must analyse to improve." - Wire Services.