By Steve Tongue
LONDON, April 13 (Reuters) - Liverpool took a huge step towards becoming English champions for the first time in 24 years when they beat third-placed Manchester City 3-2 in a thrilling Premier League game at Anfield on Sunday.
A Chelsea victory in that game could let in City, who trail Liverpool by seven points but have two games in hand, one against bottom club Sunderland on Wednesday.
Liverpool have not finished top since 1990, two years before the Premier League began, but Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel put them 2-0 up inside 26 minutes before David Silva led a City revival in the second half.
The Spaniard reduced the deficit and an own goal by Glen Johnson levelled matters before Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho drove in the winner after a mistake by City captain Vincent Kompany 12 minutes from time to secure Liverpool's 10th successive victory.
Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson was sent off in stoppage-time and will miss three of the four remaining games, including the potentially decisive visit of Chelsea.
Manager Brendan Rodgers, who has revitalised the team in two seasons since taking over, hailed "a remarkable performance".
"I thought we were incredible today," he told Sky Sports.
"We showed so much spirit and quality. We have been put under pressure in a very big game but you can see from the quality of our football that we are coping with it."
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 unmarked Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard but from the resulting corner Slovak defender Skrtel headed in.
In between, City lost influential Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure due to injury 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 and Sergio Aguero coming on.
In the 56th minute Milner set up Silva to score from close range and five minutes later 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 penalties in separate incidents but television replays suggested the ever controversial Suarez had dived. Having already received a yellow card, he could have been sent off.
City were looking the more likely winners and Mignolet had to save well from Edin Dzeko before Silva just failed to reach Aguero's inviting cross.
But Liverpool came again and after Kompany had mis-kicked a clearance Coutinho beat Hart with fine low shot from 15 metres.
Henderson's red card came for a lunging tackle on Nasri. At the final whistle, a tearful 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, who played against 10 men for most of their game at Swansea after Chico Flores was sent off for two yellow cards in the first quarter of an hour.
Chelsea dominated from then on but could not break through until Demba Ba, whose goal knocked out Paris Saint-Germain in a Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday, scored in the 67th minute.
"Patience was the key today," Chelsea captain John Terry said. (Editing by Ed Osmond)
- Sports & Recreation
- Manchester City
- Swansea City
- Premier League
- Vincent Kompany
- David Silva
- Raheem Sterling