Liverpool did an old rival a favor Sunday when it held Premier League leader Manchester City to a 1-1 draw.
Vincent Kompany put City ahead in the 31st minute but Liverpool equalized just two minutes later through Joleon Lescott’s own-goal and City was hanging on at the end even before Mario Balotelli was sent off with seven minutes remaining.
It was only the second time this season that unbeaten City has failed to win in the Premier League and it meant that second-place Manchester United did not pay too dearly for dropping two points against Newcastle on Saturday.
But not everyone’s mind was on football.
The Anfield crowd observed a minute’s silence before the game in honor of Wales manager Gary Speed, who was found dead on Sunday at age 42. Asked to do the same, the fans at Swansea’s 0-0 draw with Aston Villa instead opted for an impromptu minute’s applause and chanted Speed’s name.
With 11 wins and two draws from 13 games, City leads defending champion United by five points. United, which last season surpassed Liverpool’s 21-year-old record of 18 English titles, drew 1-1 with Newcastle following the award of a contentious penalty to the visitors.
Kompany glanced a header into the top corner from David Silva’s corner kick before Lescott’s outstretched leg deflected Charlie Adam’s shot past goalkeeper Joe Hart for the equalizer.
”Manchester City are a top side and have top players and we knew it would be difficult,” Adam said. ”But we stuck to our guns and we played well.”
Balotelli charged about the field after replacing Samir Nasri in the 65th minute, getting his first yellow card for pulling back Glen Johnson by the shoulder and the second six minutes later for leading with his arm while challenging Martin Skrtel for an aerial ball.
Sent from the field, Balotelli seemed to remonstrate with manager Roberto Mancini before being escorted down the tunnel by a policeman. But Mancini said he had no concerns over the temperamental striker.
”He didn’t deserve the second yellow card,” Mancini said. ”We don’t have any problem. Mario is young. I think he was disappointed with the yellow card.”
Hart then made saves from Luis Suarez and – with a spectacular one-handed stop – from substitute Andy Carroll. Silva could have won it for 10-man City at the other end with a breakaway but his shot was blocked on the line by one of a trio of covering defenders.
Liverpool is in sixth place, ahead of Arsenal on goal difference. Arsenal drew 1-1 with Fulham on Saturday when Gunners defender Thomas Vermaelen scored at both ends.
Also Saturday, third-place Tottenham moved to within two points of Manchester United when Emmanuel Adebayor scored twice for a 3-1 win at West Bromwich Albion, and Chelsea beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 through three first-half goals.
Wigan beat Sunderland 2-1 and was replaced at the bottom of the standings by Blackburn, which lost 3-1 at Stoke. Everton rose to eighth place as Marouane Fellaini and Apostolos Vellios scored second-half goals for a 2-0 win at Bolton, while Norwich trail the Toffees only on goal difference after a 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers.
Sunday’s second game was overshadowed by the death of Speed.
There were four members of the Wales squad involved in the game as Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor, Joe Allen and James Collins started for their respective clubs.
Villa goalkeeper Shay Given played with Speed at Newcastle and was in tears.
”It was such a bombshell,” Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers said. ”We decided from our end that we wanted to play as a mark of respect for Gary because he was a great man of football.
”It is just so sad. He had been doing a fantastic job for Wales, and it’s a sad day for football.”
The match was drab, with substitute Leroy Lita firing narrowly wide with Swansea’s best chance.