Manchester City ended Liverpools short stay at the top of the English Premier League and moved ahead of its title rival after Alvaro Negredo secured a 2-1 victory in their Boxing Day encounter.
Englands most potent attacking team quickly recovered after Phillippe Coutinho put Liverpool ahead in the 24th minute.
Vincent Kompany headed City level seven minutes later and Negredos high shot was fumbled into the net by Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet on the stroke of halftime.
Thats the hardest game so far. Liverpool are a good team so its great for us, Kompany said. Its a weird (title race) because all the teams started a little slowly.
City ended the day as it started: A point behind the leaders. But Arsenal is back atop the standings,with City moving up a place to second and Liverpool dropping to fourth behind Chelsea.
I thought we were absolutely outstanding, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. (The players) had no help whatsoever from the officials. They were horrendous.
Aggrieved that Raheem Sterling had a goal ruled out for offside and Luis Suarez was denied a late penalty,Rodgers questioned why a referee from the Manchester area Lee Mason of Bolton was given a match involving a Manchester team. Rodgers could face an English Football Association charge for calling into question the referees integrity and implying potential bias.
Despite the setback,Liverpool was only three points behind leader Arsenal going into Sundays match at Chelsea.
Manuel Pellegrinis side has beaten every team in the top eight apart from Chelsea,and has netted a league leading 53 goals in 18 games. Despite going up against the high-scoring Suarez,City was again the superior attacking unit and created all the danger at the start.
Blues on the attack
Jesus Navas headed against the post after five minutes,Kompany missed the target with a header from Samir Nasris corner,and Yaya Toures shot was deflected wide.
It wasnt long,though,before City goalkeeper Joe Hart was called into action in his second league match after being dropped for two months.
Hart denied Suarez an 11th goal of the month when he blocked his free kick. But,after Raheem Sterlings goal was harshly ruled out for being offside while meeting Suarezs pass,Hart was beaten. Suarez flicked the ball through for Sterling to round Hart,whose goal was open for Coutinho to dispatch the loose ball into the net from a tight angle. The lead lasted only seven minutes.
Kompany outjumped Martin Skrtel to meet David Silvas corner and his header first went past the diving Mignolet and then Joe Allen was powerless to stop on the goal-line. In a fast-paced game,City was at times exposed by the speed of Liverpools break. In the 40th,Suarez released Coutinho,who was denied this time by Hart.
Harts counterpart,though,wasnt as assured between the posts. City broke through the middle,with Nasri and Navas leading the charge before feeding Negredo. The shot from Negredo didnt seem menacing but Mignolet pushed it looping over him into the net.
Im disappointed we shipped a goal from a corner and for the second goal,we have to manage the game better coming up to halftime, Rodgers said. Thats an area we will look at,for sure.
Liverpool,so devastating in December,with 18 goals in four games,couldnt produce an equaliser. Jordan Henderson struck over at the start of the second half from Suarezs layoff. Mignolet,though,wasnt beaten again,getting two hands on the ball this time when Negredo tried to chip him,and easily collecting a header from the forward.
At the other end,Hart made a case for retaining his place in the City goal after error-strewn performances led to him being dropped in October for league matches. The England goalkeeper denied Glen Johnson before being alert to keep out Hendersons backheeled shot.
Liverpools best chance of the half to equalise was squandered when Sterling met Suarezs cross but blazed over with the goal seemingly at his mercy. Suarez was denied a penalty late on when Joleon Lescott tugged on his shirt.
Im disappointed to lose, Rodgers said,but the over-riding feeling is pride in my players.