Sunday, April 13, 2014

Liverpool Move into Driver’s Seat in Title Race (3-2 Over City)

In a game that had everything from an own goal and two-goal reversal to a red card and late winner, the match at Anfield between Manchester City and host Liverpool may go down in the annals of English Football, particularly if the Reds go on to win their first title in 24 long years. Both teams went for it from the opening whistle to the last moment – in some ways indicting the negative tactics Mourinho is so famous for in big games. Liverpool got on the board early, when a beautiful holdup and then through pass by Suarez was finished in spectacular fashion by Raheem Sterling, cutting back across both Kompany and Hart (5’). Liverpool were rampant from there and made it 2-0 in the 26th minute, when a powerful header by Martin Skrtel from a corner flew past Hart. That is how the half ended but things began to shift in the second 45.

Man City came out and began attacking with purpose from the second half whistle and leveled the game in a whirlwind five minutes started by an excellent David Silva goal in the 57th and then an own goal by Skrtel off another Silva shot. With the score 2-2 and 30 minutes left, City seemed the more likely to win, even as a draw would have and continued their status as the preemptive favorites for the title. Instead they continued to attack and were unlucky not to go ahead when Dzeko found himself free on goal and was well saved by Mignolet. But in the 78th minute, a simple clearance for captain Vincent Kompany was fluffed right into the path of Coutinho, who kept his head down and finished to the near corner in impressive fashion. City pushed for the equalizer, but Liverpool held tough and moved a step closer to what would be a one of the most surprising title in recent memory.

And thus Captain Gerrard, who had a number of key tackles inside and outside the box to go with excellent play in the buildups and the assist on the Skrtel goal, outplayed Captain Kompany, who was guilty of lapses on two of the three Liverpool goals, ironically making the difference after Kompany wasn’t even supposed to play. Liverpool have now won 10 straight games and stand four from the title, though this one will not be registered without some protests from City. For one, there were two missed penalty calls – the first for a clumsy Sakho challenge on Dzeko in the box and the second a hand ball by Skrtel in the 91st minute that really should have been called (as his arm was extended far in front of his face and stopped a header opportunity). And Suarez should have been gone early in the second half after a clear dive went unpenalized with him already in the book for an early yellow. When Henderson was shown a red in the 93rd minute for a stupid tackle, it was too late for City to take advantage of. That was the only bad news at Anfield today, as he will now miss most 3/4ths of the rest of the season, including the key matchup against Chelsea in a fortnight.

Less than a year ago, Steven Gerrard gave an interview where he admitted he expected to retire without a title. With four games left, that dream can finally come true for one of the class acts in English football, who has already experienced victory in the all of the major Cup competitions. But standing in his way are relegation threatened Norwich and Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Newcastle. The title is now theirs to win … let’s see if they can finally bring it home. 

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