A late December slump that saw them fail to score against West Brom and Sunderland with their New Years Day defeat at the Stadium of Light just their second of the season. However it was business as usual for Roberto Mancini’s side with goals from Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and James Milner putting them three points clear of rivals United at the top having played a game more than their rivals. The manner in which they eased to victory will sting Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish who will be disappointed that his side failed to take advantage of City’s poor start to 2012. Instead they faced a backlash from the league leaders as they maintained their impressive record at home with this their 10th win in a row at the Etihad Stadium despite having Gareth Barry sent off.
With Luis Suarez missing the first of eight games following the Reds’ decision not to appeal against his ban the anonymous performance of record signing Andy Carroll offered a frightening insight into life without the explosive Uruguayan. Dalglish’s men just couldn’t cope with the pace and strength that City possess as they took the lead inside 10 minutes thanks in part to an uncharacteristic error from Pepe Reina who let Aguero’s long-range strike creep under his body. The hosts were well on top but still had some work to do at the back with Joe Hart producing a superb save to keep out Stewart Downing after he was played in by Jordan Henderson. Edin Dzeko was then unlucky to see his effort clip off Glen Johnson and fly just wide of the post before Hart pushed Charlie Adam’s free kick away at the other end. Reina then redeemed himself with an instinctive stop to deny Vincent Kompany but could do nothing to keep out Toure’s thumping header int he 34th minute.
Dalglish threw captain Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy on at half time in an effort to salvage something from the game only for it to serve as the catalyst for City to raise their game and protect their lead after Barry saw red for blocking Daniel Agger. However the visitors were unable to take advantage of their numerical supremacy as the hosts wrapped up victory with fifteen minutes remaining with Milner scoring from the penalty spot after Martin Skrtel had fouled Toure in the penalty area. Despite being a man down City continued to look the better side and almost scored a fourth when Adam Johnson’s shot beat Reina only to bounce back off the post. Gerrard’s long range strike and Maxi Rodriguez’s effort were the best Liverpool had to show for their efforts in the second half as Mancini’s men moved three points clear at the top.