Cunning Coutinho and Liverpool spoil Man City’s day out at Anfield
Liverpool bounced back from their midweek Europa League upset with aplomb by sinking northwest rivals Manchester City 2-1 in front of jubilant home fans.
Brendan Rodgers’ Reds have now increased pressure on top four rivals Arsenal and Manchester United, and showed no signs of a European hangover as fantastic Philippe Coutinho and stand-in skipper Jordan Henderson struck two superb goals.
City started the brightest, but the Anfield outift quickly gained a foothold, illustrating early intent as crafty Coutihno sliced open the visitor’s rearguard with ease to put Lallana clear through on goal.
The former Southampton captain’s subsequent shot was soft, but Lallana certainly made amends with his intelligent performance, and was unlucky to see not one, but two, attempts ruled offside during this frenetic fixture.
The 26-year-old’s first try was a terrific tightly-angled volley from a Coutinho cross that surely would have been a contender for goal of the game if allowed, but instead warned the Sky Blues of what was to come.
Lallana and Coutinho continued to link superbly, with the latter grabbing his second game-winning goal in two seasons against City at Anfield.
It was certainly a strike worthy of claiming all three points, but Henderson’s scorching opener, also created by quick-thinking Coutino’s fine footwork, was equally impressive.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men, meanwhile, have now lost the chance to gain ground on title rivals Chelsea and remain five points adrift of the Premier League leaders.
It was certainly an opportunity lost as, in a game characterised by influential attacking midfielders and defensive wobbles, three points could have been there for the taking.
Under-pressure Edin Dzeko initially gave the Manchester club hope, as City drew level after Henderson’s thumping first half goal with a wonderfully worked team effort.
Yaya Toure’s return to form continues to buoy the Sky Blues, and it was one of the Ivory Coast international’s raking passes from deep that allowed David Silva to make magic. The skillfull Spain maestro combined well with Sergio Aguero, whose sly threaded pass bamboozled Liverpool’s defence to find Dzeko, who duly slotted home.
It was not to be Aguero’s day, however, as City’s best chances of the game subsequently fell to the Argentine and Silva, who both fired wide.
The Sky Blues’ defeat can be attributed more to the defensive disorganisation that was evident last time out against Barcelona, however. Unconvincing centre back pairing Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala were constantly caught out due to poor positioning and concentration, allowing Liverpool to have a field day.
Pellegrini’s choice to start with two up top did not help the duo, who were often left exposed by their midfield, so City suffered after affording the home team too much space, in a performance that belied their status as the top away team in the league.
Liverpool were not without their own defensive errors, but were the only team to learn from their mistakes after the break, as Coutinho and co’s energy and pressing helped the Merseyside men keep control and momentum.
The Sky Blues, meanwhile, must shore up those holes in midfield and defence if they are to stay in the title race.