Liverpool take all three points from a non-stop, high-intensity clash with reigning Premier League champions Manchester City at Anfield…
Unsurprisingly, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers made some notable changes to his side following the disappointment of Europa League elimination in midweek.
Key midfielder Jordan Henderson was passed fit after a foot issue while both Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli dropped to the bench, to accommodate Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana, meaning Raheem Sterling reverted to being the primary frontman.
A frantic, high tempo opening saw both sides show plenty of ambition going forward but without either keeper initially being tested.
Overall City were having the better of proceedings but the first effort at goal came from the hosts when Lallana poked a shot straight at Joe Hart from the edge of the area.
Within moments the former Southampton captain had the ball in the back of the net but it was rightly chalked off for offside.
Liverpool were firmly on top at this stage and the opener soon arrived courtesy of a beautiful curling effort from Henderson in the 11th minute.
It would have been a short-lived lead had City not been denied by the woodwork a minute later after hesitation at the back allowed Sergio Aguero a sight of goal.
After Alberto Moreno and Sterling had both failed to make the most of dangerous positions, the game began to settle down with the half hour mark approaching.
Suddenly the visitors were level when Aguero cut in from the right and produced an inch-perfect pass for Edin Dzeko to fire past Simon Mignolet.
A fantastic sweeping move involving Emre Can and Markovic almost restored Liverpool’s lead in the 35th minute but Lallana’s first-time effort flashed narrowly wide.
With David Silva and Yaya Toure growing in prominence, the Citizens ended the half on top, although Sterling missed a great chance to score on the stroke of the half-time whistle.
Aguero headed narrowly over within seconds of the restart as the reigning Premier League champions again came out of the blocks quickly.
Sterling could have punished the miss in the 51st minute after Coutinho and Lallana combined but Pablo Zabaleta did just enough to put the 20-year-old off balance.
Lallana had another goal disallowed soon afterwards, this time Martin Skrtel the man guilty of being in an offside position.
The Reds were finding plenty of space in midfield and with his side increasingly on the back-foot Manuel Pellegrini opted to introduce the dependable James Milner at the expense of Dzeko on the hour mark.
Liverpool continued to impress in their build-up play but it always seemed something special would be required in the final third to beat Hart.
That something special duly arrived in the 75th minute when Coutinho riffled past the England shot-stopper from distance in a manner not to dissimilar to Henderson’s earlier strike.
Both sides sent strikers on – Daniel Sturridge and Wilfried Bony respectively – in the closing stages and continued to press despite obvious tiredness beginning to creep in.
Aguero was inches away from equalising from a tight angle while up the other end a deflected Coutinho effort looped fractionally over.
Bony was perhaps a little fortunate to remain on the pitch with five minutes to go, after catching Lallana with a forearm, before Sturridge dragged an opportunity to make the three points safe wide.
The action continued right up until the final whistle as Silva and Aguero both missed the target in the closing seconds.
A simply fantastic three points which, particularly off the back of a dominant second half display, were well deserved. The men in red battled tirelessly from start to finish and showed no ill-affects from the mental and physical toil of Thursday night in Turkey. Their was quality in their work also and the two goals were exquisite, others could have been forthcoming with a bit more luck or composure. Coutinho was exceptional but others, including Lallana, Can and Joe Allen, also produced impressive individual performances and collectively it was a brilliant team showing. The victory keeps our momentum going and on this evidence a top four finish is becoming increasingly likely.
Philippe Coutinho – The gifted Brazilian was the standout player on a star-studded pitch. His poise, touch, movement and awareness meant he managed to find time and space where nobody else could. With a regular end product and an ever improving work-rate, Coutinho is fast becoming one of the best players in the world.
Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Lovren, Markovic (Sturridge 76′), Moreno (Toure 83′), Allen, Henderson (c), Lallana, Coutinho, Sterling.
Unused subs: Ward, Williams, Borini, Balotelli, Lambert.
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