Liverpool faced the most important game the club has played since 1990 when the league-leading Reds confronted surging Manchester City at Anfield Sunday. When the 90 minutes were up, the side that once dominated English football — but faded during the Premier League era — had reasserted its dominance with a nail-biting 3-2 win that placed the title squarely in Liverpool control.
With the three points, and with four games left on their schedule, Liverpool can now guarantee themselves their first top-division English title since the 1989/90 season simply by winning those four remaining matches.
Next up on the schedule is Norwich City away next Sunday. Norwich is a team teetering on the edge of the relegation zone. But 33-year-old Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard refused to let his mates look past that contest. Just seconds after referee Mark Clattenburg sounded the final whistle, Gerrard huddled his team on the sideline and delivered an impassioned speech — and not one of celebration or congratulations.
“This is gone now!” Gerrard shouted at his Liverpool teammates. “Norwich! We do exactly the same. We go again!”
After the game, Gerrard called the Manchester City contest, which saw Liverpool get off to a fast start with two first half goals, only to give two back to the visiting Blues in the first 17 minutes after the interval, “the longest 90 minutes I have probably played in,” which was quite a statement for the England midfielder considering this was the 580th game of his 15- year career, between club and country.
“It felt like the clock was going backwards during parts of that game,” Gerrard said.
While the Barclays Premier League, like all European leagues, has no American-style playoffs or championship game, this Liverpool – Manchester City match had the feel of a Super Bowl or a Game Seven, in U.S. terms — or a Cup Final in world football parlance. Coming in, the belief among fan and experts was that even with what were then five games left for Liverpool and seven for city, the winner of this one would all but clinch the title.
Liverpool made an early statement as 19-year-old prodigy Raheem Sterling slotted home just six minutes, off precision ball in from Luis Suarez, and cooly sidestepping Manchester City keeper Joe Hart.
Martin Skrtel headed home a second in the 25th minute. But Manchester City started to find their form toward the end of the first period and when the teams took the field after halftime, it was City who looked more the title contender. David Silva pulled the Citizens back into the game in the 57th minute, and own goal deflection by Liverpool defender Glen Johnson equalized five minutes later.
But in a shocking turn of events in the 78th minute, Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany botched a routine clearance, setting up Liverpool 21-year-old Brazilian Philippe Coutinho to drive a low ball past Hart’s outstretched left arm and into the corner.
But Gerrard refused to let his team get “carried away,” as he said, with what was clearly their biggest result in years.
“We have got four cup games left,” said the player who has become synonymous with Liverpool football. “People said that was the biggest one was Manchester City but I disagree, the big one now is Norwich. Nothing is ours yet.”