On April 13th 2014, Liverpool took a giant step towards the Premier League title. On an emotional day at Anfield – as the crowd marked the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster – the Reds vanquished their main challengers to the title crown thanks in large part to a scintillating first half display.
Those fast and furious starts were a hallmark of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side, so it was no surprise to see them take a 2-0 lead into the break, courtesy of goals from Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel.
The Cityzens rallied in the second half and – in what might now be considered to have been a warning to the Reds as to what they must be wary of in the future – pegged Liverpool back to level terms.
A rare mistake from Vincent Kompany allowed Philippe Coutinho to fire the home side back in front. Despite a late red card being shown to Jordan Henderson, Liverpool were able to hold out and claim the three points. At the time, those three points were vital.
They were the ticket to the title. Those points put Liverpool in charge and made the whole thing theirs to lose. Since 1990 – the last time Liverpool emerged victorious at the end of an English top flight campaign – the Merseyside giants had never been so close to a return to the glory days as they were when the final whistle blew to seal their victory over City.
The game itself was a tightly contested affair, though over the course of the 90 minutes as a whole, City were perhaps even the better team. Liverpool’s ability to grind out a victory in these trying circumstances simply served to increase the belief that their time had finally come.
With the game won, Rodgers’ boys formed a huddle on the pitch in front of the famous Kop end. The club’s long-serving and iconic captain, Steven Gerrard, took this moment to address his teammates and served up the following words of inspiration:
“This does not slip now.
“This does not slip now.
“Listen to me.
“This does not slip.”
In that moment, it was hard to believe that Liverpool would not go on to win their first ever Premier League title. They were two points clear with just four games left to play: Norwich (away), Chelsea (home), Crystal Palace (away), Newcastle (home).
The Canaries were dispatched by another 3-2 scoreline, with Sterling once again on the scoresheet. Then came the visit of 2nd placed Chelsea, intent upon maintaining their own charge for the title. Liverpool came into the game on an 11-match winning streak and a 16-game unbeaten run. Rodgers will also have been acutely aware that victory would all but cement his team as champions.
Liverpool dominated the ball, recording 73% of the possession. They also managed far more shots, shots on target and corners than the Blues. Mourinho’s men held firm.
Deep into added time at the end of the first half Steven Gerrard received a pass in the middle of the pitch which he failed to properly control. The ball bobbled away from him, and as the No. 8 scrambled to retain possession he slipped. In the cruelest twist of irony, Gerrard’s slip allowed Demba Ba to race through on goal and slide Chelsea ahead. In that ill-fated instant, the tide of the title race turned. The Blues won 2-0.
Next up was a visit to Selhurst Park. 55 minutes in and Liverpool were three goals up without reply and cruising – the dream was back on. However, the sequel to Gerrard’s stumble was to come in the form of a spectacular collapse. Three goals for the home side scored within ten minutes – rounded off by Dwight Gayle’s 88th minute equaliser – condemned Liverpool to dropped points for the second match in a row. The shellshocked Reds saw the title slip from their grasp. The fate of the league was now in City’s hands and they would not let it go.
On May 11th 2014, Manuel Pellegrini’s side were confirmed as champions of England. Despite victory over Newcastle, Liverpool’s long wait would go on.
Almost one month to the day before, though, the Reds had beaten the eventual champions. On that day, glory had been theirs for the taking. Had Liverpool been able to maintain their form, that match would likely have gone down as the moment the title was clinched. As it was, the result became a footnote in City’s success.
As the curtain came down on Liverpool’s victory over City, Gerrard – as ever – was the man able to to keep his head. Had he been able to keep his feet too against Chelsea it all could have been so different.