Negredo gives Man City 2-1 victory over Liverpool

Manchester City ended Liverpool’s 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.

England’s 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

Negredo’s high shot was fumbled into the net by Liverpool

goalkeeper Simon Mignolet on the stroke of halftime.

”That’s the hardest game so far. Liverpool are a good team so

it’s great for us,” Kompany said. ”It’s 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 referee’s integrity and implying

potential bias.

”We never got any decision,” Rodgers said.

Despite the setback, Liverpool was only three points behind

leader Arsenal going into Sunday’s match at Chelsea.

City, though, remain the favorite to repeat its 2012 title

triumph after its ninth straight home win to start the season.

Manuel Pellegrini’s 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.

Jesus Navas headed against the post after five minutes, Kompany

missed the target with a header from Samir Nasri’s corner, and Yaya

Toure’s shot was deflected wide.

It wasn’t 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 Sterling’s goal was harshly ruled out for

being offside while meeting Suarez’s 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 Silva’s 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

Liverpool’s break. In the 40th, Suarez released Coutinho, who was

denied this time by Hart.

Hart’s counterpart, though, wasn’t as assured between the

posts.

City broke through the middle, with Nasri and Navas leading the

charge before feeding Negredo.

The shot from Negredo didn’t seem menacing but Mignolet pushed

it looping over him into the net.

”I’m 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. ”That’s an area we will look at, for

sure.”

Liverpool, so devastating in December – with 18 goals in four

games – couldn’t produce an equalizer. Jordan Henderson struck over

at the start of the second half from Suarez’s layoff.

Mignolet, though, wasn’t 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 Henderson’s

backheeled shot.

Liverpool’s best chance of the half to equalize was squandered

when Sterling met Suarez’s 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.

”I’m disappointed to lose,” Rodgers said, ”but the

over-riding feeling is pride in my players.”