FA Premier League
Sunday 13 April 2014, 13.37 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Toure (Garcia 19), Fernandinho, Navas (Milner 50), Nasri, Silva, Dzeko (Aguero 68)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Negredo, Kolarov
Goals: Silva (57), Johnson (og 62)
Booked: Garcia, Fernandinho, Zabaleta
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the Match: James Milner
The afternoon at Anfield kicked off seven minutes late as a mark of respect for the 96 fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough in 1989 – and the minutes’ silence was well observed by both sets of player and fans. It was a fitting tribute for the 25th anniversary of the disaster.
The visitors were behind early on and it was the hosts who had put them under pressure from the off. Suarez played a neat through-ball for Sterling to run in behind Kompany and, facing Hart on a one-on-one, side-stepped past the goalkeeper and slotted it into the net. City couldn’t have asked for a worse start.
It was almost two after 15 minutes, as Clichy was too easily beaten by Sterling on the right flank and the youngster whipped in a cross behind the City back four. Kompany couldn’t reach it and Sturridge – free in the middle – side-footed it wide. He was stretching, but should have done better. It did get worse for the Blues, though, as Toure had to leave the pitch injured.
Gerrard should have doubled Liverpool’s lead – and he had done everything but beat Hart, who produced a brilliant reaction save to touch the free header over the bar. But from the resulting corner, Skrtel escaped Kompany and flicked the ball into the net. City had a mountain to climb.
City were denied a penalty on the half hour when Dzeko was brought down by Sahko, but the referee decided there was no foul, as the Bosnian over-egged his fall. It was a poor call from the official. Coutinho should have made it three from a breakaway, but he dragged his shot wide.
Mignolet was then bailed out by Johnson, as he came for the cross and missed it, with Dzeko heading towards the empty goal – the full back nodded off the line and it looped up onto the bar. As City broke back again after Hart claimed the ball back, Navas crossed for Fernandinho to volley, but the goalkeeper got down well to push it away.
With 52 minutes on the clock, Suarez should have been shown his second yellow. Demichelis dived in on the forward, but missed the ball and missed the man, yet the striker dropped to ground clutching his foot. He’d dived, the referee saw it, but didn’t show the yellow card – instead giving a goal kick. He bottled it.
City dug deep and dragged themselves back into the game. A good series of passes worked the opening on the right flank and Milner – via a one-two with Zabaleta – got in behind to square for Silva. The Spaniard dinked the ball into the net, past the desperate dive of Skrtel, who tried to slide it off the line.
The visitors twice came close to equalising minutes after their goal: First Silva caused trouble in the box as Skrtel miss-kicked a clearance, before the Spaniard drilled a low cross towards Dzeko. The Bosnian, though, couldn’t connect as he threw himself at it.
City did get their equaliser, though, just after the hour mark. Silva and Nasri linked up down the left flank and the Frenchman played the Spaniard in. He drilled it into the box once more and it ricocheted off Johnson and sent Mignolet the wrong way – it followed a great challenge by Zabaleta, who won the ball from Sturridge with a last-gasp tackle in the box.
With 15 minutes to play, City were inches away from getting in front. Aguero rolled Skrtel on the left flank and drove towards the box. Instead of taking the shot on, he played it in for Silva in the middle – the Spaniard had to dive to reach it, but he couldn’t turn it into the net.
Two minutes later, though, City hit self-destruct. The Blues were in control of the game, but a throw-in was miss-kicked by Kompany straight to Coutinho. The Liverpool man hit it first time and curled it around Hart into the bottom corner. City had it all to do again.
In stoppage time, the away side were denied a penalty when Skrtel punched the ball clear, before Henderson over-ran the ball and dived in on Nasri as the Blues tried to break again with possession. The Liverpool man went in with a straight leg and was rightly dismissed, but City felt the red card should have come at the start of the second half, not the end – it came too late to change the game.