Manchester City leapfrogged Liverpool into second place in the Premier League table after recording an entertaining 2-1 victory at the Etihad.
Both teams went at it hammer and tong in the day’s late kick-off, with Liverpool chasing the incentive of a Boxing Day top-of-the-table place.
Phillipe Coutinho put the visitors in the lead yet City were pegged back before the interval by goals from Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo. Despite a Liverpool onslaught in the second half, Manuel Pellegrini’s side were able to hold on for all three points.
Pablo Zabaleta made a surprise return from his hamstring injury for the home side, while Joe Hart kept his starting berth. The visitors were without Jon Flanagan, Steven Gerrard, Jose Enrique and Daniel Sturridge yet Kolo Toure could still not make the first XI – quashing chances of a much-hyped double-Toure chant from both sets of fans.
City attacked from the off, hitting the post when Jesus Navas’ header looped up and over Simon Mignolet.
From there on the two sides traded blows. First Kompany, then Suarez, went close with headers from corners before Raheem Sterling twice broke beyond the City backline only to be denied by an excellent Aleksander Kolarov challenge and a woefully incorrect offside call.
Sterling wasn’t to be denied at the third time of asking and a slick Liverpool move was finished off when the winger nipped beyond Hart and allowed Coutinho to tuck into the empty net.
The home side rallied strongly as Yaya Toure drove wide after a clever touch in the box before captain Kompany powered home a header from a corner.
In the latter stages of the first half Hart and Martin Škrtel performed heroics to keep the score at 1-1. Firstly the England goalkeeper thwarted Coutinho after some stunning build-up playing involving the Brazilian, Luis Suarez and Sturridge. As the ball yoyoed down the other end Skrtel recovered with a last gasp sliding challenge to deny Negredo a clear shot at goal.
With what was almost the last kick of the first-half Negredo put the hosts in front, capping off a lethal City counter attack with a somewhat tame finish that Mignolet fumbled into his own net.
The second half began in as tempestously as the first ended with Suarez almost getting on the end of a raking Sterling pass, only to be halted by Hart.
Negredo almost caught Mignolet out with an outrageous dinked effort from 25 yards out however it was the Belgian’s counterpart who came to the fore in the latter stages of the game. Hart denied Liverpool twice in quick succession, firstly with his feet from Glen Johnson’s drive and secondly from Jordan Henderson’s clever backheel. Shortly after Sterling hammered over from close range.
Toure almost sealed victory for the home side when his low, fizzed ball narrowly evaded Edin Dzeko yet City hung on to maintain this season’s 100% Premier League home record and leapfrog Brendan Rodgers’ side.