Football

Published: Sunday April 13, 2014 MYT 11:52:04 PM
Updated: Sunday April 13, 2014 MYT 11:52:04 PM

Liverpool closer to title after defeating City

Liverpool's Philippe Courtinho (C) celebrates scoring with Jon Flanagan (R) and Steven Gerrard against Manchester City during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England April 13, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

Liverpool's Philippe Courtinho (C) celebrates scoring with Jon Flanagan (R) and Steven Gerrard against Manchester City during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England April 13, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

LONDON (Reuters) - Premier League leaders Liverpool took a huge step towards becoming English champions for the first time in 24 years when they defeated third-placed Manchester City 3-2 at Anfield on Sunday for a 10th successive win.

The Merseyside club have not finished top since 1990, two years before the Premier League began.

Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel put them 2-0 up in 26 minutes before David Silva led a City revival. The Spaniard reduced the deficit and an own goal by Glen Johnson brought an equaliser only five minutes later.

But Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho drove in the winner after a mistake by City's captain Vincent Kompany.

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson was sent off in added time and will miss three of the four remaining games.

Liverpool are now seven points ahead of City, having played two games more, and five ahead of their next visitors Chelsea, who play at Swansea in the later match on Sunday.

Their manager Brendan Rodgers hailed "a remarkable performance" and said the team were "incredible today".

It was an emotional day for the club, who commemorated 25 years since the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 of their supporters died at an FA Cup semi-final. There was a minute's silence before kickoff, after which the home fans roared their team into a sixth-minute lead.

Luis Suarez outmuscled his marker Gael Clichy and fed Sterling, the teenager cleverly dummying Kompany and England goalkeeper Joe Hart before scoring.

Twenty minutes later Hart saved well from a header by Liverpool's unmarked captain Steven Gerrard but from the resulting corner Slovak defender Skrtel headed in.

TOURE INJURED

In between, City had lost their influential Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure and not until shortly before halftime did they threaten. Johnson and Sterling had to clear off the line in the same attack and Fernandinho's half-volley was saved by Simon Mignolet.

City, champions two years ago before losing their title to neighbours Manchester United last season, continued to improve after halftime with James Milner then Sergio Aguero coming on.

In the 56th minute Milner set up Silva to score from close range and five minutes afterwards Silva and Samir Nasri worked a neat passing move that ended with Johnson deflecting the ball past his own goalkeeper.

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge, a former City player, and Suarez both wanted a penalty in separate incidents but television replays suggested the ever controversial Suarez had dived and, having already been given a yellow card, could have been sent off.

City were beginning to look the more likely winners despite their poor start and Mignolet had to save well from Edin Dzeko before Silva just failed to reach Aguero's inviting cross.

But Liverpool came again. Kompany miskicked a clearance and Coutinho beat Hart with fine low shot from 15 metres.

Henderson's red card came for a lunging tackle on Nasri and his suspension will rule him out of three vital games, including the visit of second-placed Chelsea in two weeks' time.

At the final whistle, Gerrard gathered his team in a huddle in the middle of the pitch as the home supporters celebrated wildly.

Liverpool may still need to beat Chelsea in order to take the title but this thrilling victory has undoubtedly made them favourites.

(Editing by Rex Gowar)

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