FA Premier League
Thursday 26 December 2013, 17.30 KO
City: Hart, Kolarov, Kompany (c), Lescott, Zabaleta, Toure, Fernandinho, Silva (Garcia 87), Nasri (Milner 72), Navas, Negredo (Dzeko 77)
Unused: Pantilimon, Clichy, Nastasic, Boyata
Goals: Kompany (31), Negredo (45+1)
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the Match: Fernandinho
Given City’s previous home games this season, many were expecting a high scoring game as Liverpool rocked up at the Etihad. However, both Pellegrini and Rodgers opted for more cautious set-ups and it was a strong performance from the home side to take the points.
The Blues settled the quickest – Navas flicked a header onto the bar, before Kompany got in front of Skrtel at a corner, but could only nod it wide.
The visitors responded: Suarez flicked a corner wide of Hart’s post, and Kolarov was needed to put in a last-gasp tackle in the box as Sterling raced through – that chance came as Zabaleta’s short pass was picked up in the middle.
The flag wrongly went up against Sterling – who rounded Hart and netted, though the City keeper had stopped, before the away side did open the scoring. Some good work set Sterling through and he rounded Hart, leaving Coutinho to slot into the unguarded goal.
The lead lasted five minutes. A left wing corner was curled into the box and Kompany rose highest to connect. The effort skipped past Mignolet and his defender on the line and the Blues were level.
City should have added their second almost instantly – Nasri and Silva combined to release Navas following a Liverpool corner, but the winger blazed over.
Hart produced a fantastic save from Coutinho with five minutes of the half to play: The Liverpool man found space in the box to shoot, but the England keeper stood up and spread himself to block.
With the fans readying themselves for half time, the Blues took the lead with virtually the last kick of the period. A decisive breakaway saw Navas feed Negredo early and his shot – with the outside of his left foot – should have been saved by Mignolet. But he flapped at it and it bounced over the line.
As the hosts started the first half the better, it was the visitors who began the second with more purpose. Suarez stung the hands of Hart, after Henderson had fired over. City were inviting the pressure and dropping deep; Liverpool were obliging.
The home side’s best chances came from set pieces or breakaways. Kompany headed at Mignolet from a corner, before Negredo spotted the Belgian keeper off his line and tried a chip – but it didn’t quite have enough height.
Soon, City were again on the back foot. Hart saved well from Henderson’s back-heel flick, before Suarez crossed low and everybody in the box missed it, as the visitors sought their equaliser. The leveller should have come through Sterling, as he got away from Kolarov to connect to a Suarez cross and – with the goal virtually unguarded – he skied it.
Suarez curled a free kick over with five minutes to play, before he riled the City fans by going down theatrically in the box under pressure from Lescott. It was enough for the hosts to hack the ball clear and ease the pressure to see out their second win of the festive period.