A poetic victory for Liverpool as they top the table in the week of 25th anniversary of Hillsborough disaster as midfielder Philippe Coutinho (C) celebrates scoring the winner against Manchester City at Anfield yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Philippe Coutinho's 78th-minute winner gave Liverpool a crucial 3-2 victory over Premier League title rivals Manchester City on a day of raw emotion at Anfield on Sunday.
City fought back from 2-0 down to level the scores, but a mistake by captain Vincent Kompany let Coutinho slam home a first-time shot that leaves Liverpool within sight of their first league title since 1990.
An afternoon that began with tributes to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster ended with Liverpool seven points clear of City at the top of the table, albeit having played two more games.
It was a 10th successive win for Brendan Rodgers's side, who scored first-half goals through Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel, and means that they will be crowned champions if they win their remaining four games.
City responded impressively in the second half to draw level. David Silva scored and then forced an own goal by Glen Johnson, but their destiny is no longer in their hands.
It was to prove a costly encounter for both teams, however, with City midfielder Yaya Toure and Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge limping off, while Liverpool's Jordan Henderson was shown a straight red card for an injury-time lunge on Samir Nasri.
A solemnly observed minute's silence in memory of the 96 Liverpool fans who died after a crush at Sheffield's Hillsborough stadium in an FA Cup semi-final in April 1989 made for a fervent atmosphere at a sun-drenched Anfield, and the home side quickly clicked into gear.
Kompany was declared fit to play after an injury scare in training on Saturday, but the City defence was immediately made to look vulnerable as Liverpool took a sixth-minute lead.
Luis Suarez freed Sterling with a fine, incisive pass and the 19-year-old exhibited superb composure to send Kompany and goalkeeper Joe Hart one way and then the other before shooting into an unguarded net.
In reply, Toure ballooned a shot over the bar but seemed to injure himself in the process. Javi Garcia entered the fray in his place moments later.
Liverpool have made storming starts their calling card at Anfield this season -- they went 4-0 up against Arsenal in only 20 minutes -- and after Sturridge had poked wide from a Sterling cross, they doubled their lead in the 26th minute.
Hart brilliantly tipped a header from Steven Gerrard over the bar after the Liverpool captain was left unmarked at a corner, but within a minute he was picking the ball out of his net.
Gerrard swept the resulting corner towards the near post and Skrtel outmuscled Kompany before glancing a header past Hart to claim his fifth goal in 10 games.
City finished the first half strongly though, with Sterling and Johnson combining to clear a Kompany header off the line and Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet blocking a volley from Fernandinho.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini introduced James Milner for Jesus Navas early in the second half and in the 57th minute he created the goal that gave City a foothold in the game, swapping passes with Fernandinho and crossing for Silva to tuck the ball home. Suddenly the visitors had their tails up, with Silva to the fore, and after drilling in a cross that narrowly eluded Dzeko, he forced the equaliser with a centre that was diverted into the net by Johnson.
To make matters worse for Liverpool, Sturridge limped off injured in the aftermath of the goal, with Joe Allen coming on.
Pellegrini sent on the fit-again Sergio Aguero and he almost laid on the winner for Silva with a low cross from the left, but the stretching Spaniard managed only to brush the ball with his studs.
It was to prove a telling moment. Minutes later, Kompany's sliced clearance fell straight to Coutinho and the Brazilian slammed home a first-time shot to leave Anfield dreaming of glory again.