MANCHESTER: Sergio Aguero in the first half and Leroy Sane in the second scored the decisive goals as Manchester City defeated Liverpool 2-1 in the Premier League duel between champions and leaders.
Liverpoool would have extended their lead to 10 points had they won but, instead, new life was breathed into title race despite an short-lived equalising goal from Roberto Firmino. City’s victory also ended Liverpool’s unbeaten record.
The game was far from the anticipated classic but it was always absorbing and entertaining and City were deserved winners.
Manager Pep Guardiola said: “I’m proud of my team but not just today. We lost two games in four days but you can’t forget what they have done for 16 months. We knew that it was a final today, if we lose it is almost over.
“All credit to these incredible players. That is how we have to play in the Champions League. Both teams tried to search for each other, we were not scared, we had no fear and we had a lot of pressure.
“They are leaders, it is four points but we have reduced the gap. We knew that if we won we would be in contention to fight for the Premier league, if we lose it is over.
“I don’t remember a league so tough, there are so many huge contenders fighting for the title. Every game is a final.”
Liverpool went closest early on when Sadio Mane broke through the heart of the City defence only to see his shot hit the post. The ricochet was cleared by John Stones against his own goalkeeper, Ederson, and the England defender then just managed to clear the ball off the line through the onrushing Mo Salah’s legs.
Goal-line technology confirmed that the ball had not been quite over the line.
City capitalised on their escape five minutes before half-time and with their first meaningful attack of the game.
Liverpool failed to clear a left-wing cross, City reclaimed possession, Bernardo Silva skipped down the left wing to cross and Aguero outwitted Dejan Lovren to score against the Reds for the seventh home league game in succession.
City dominated the opening minutes of the second half before Liverpool ground their way back into the game and levelled in the 63rd minute.
Trent Alexander-Arnold swung a right-wing cross to the far post where Andrew Robertson squared for Firmino to dive-head into goal from close range.
City had appeared to be feeling the pace even though Liverpool had not been at their most frenetic but they reacted superbly. In the 71st Raheem Sterling cut across the midfield and found Sane who accelerated in front the left and put City back in front with a shot which clipped into goal off keeper Alisson’s left-hand post.
Pep Guardiola had a touchline tantrum before Bernardo Silva and Sterling wasted excellent chances in the closing moments of stoppage time.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who thought Vincent Kompany should have been sent off for an early foul tackle on Salah, said: “It was a big pressure. Very intense game. We were unlucky in our finishing moments. Unluckier than City I would say.
“They had periods where they dominated the game and everybody felt the intensity. But we came back and had big chances. It is always like this. You have to score in those moments. When Aguero scores there is no angle. In similar situations we didn’t score.
“It was not our or City’s best game because we both made it difficult for the other team. I have already said to the boys this is OK. We lost it but it will happen. Tonight it is not nice but it is not the biggest problem.”