Date: 14th April 2014 at 4:30pm
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390244_galleryPhilippe Coutinho’s expertly steered shot past Joe Hart gave Liverpool a priceless win that hasn’t yet, but if looked back in retrospect at the end of the season, may well be the defining moment.

A weekend when emotions were high across Merseyside remembering the 96 victims of British football’s worst ever disaster – Hillsborough, Brendan Rodgers’ men gave Liverpool fans yet another roller coaster ride.

Liverpool have made quick pressing and high tempo passing their two distinct signature moves this season and it showed up yet again against Manchester City – a side who knew a draw would burst the Liverpool bubble and keep the Citizens in the title race ascendancy.

A win would’ve shocked and dented The Kop in to a late submission of their spiking ambitions. Of course mathematically everything and anything would have been and still is very much possible.

But psychologically, there’s a reason ever since Arsenal were thrashed 5-1 here, everyone in the footballing world had penciled in this and the upcoming home fixture against Chelsea.

These two games will end up defining the entire title race, unless of course someone else decides to crash the party out of nowhere, like Queens Park Rangers very nearly did a couple of years ago.

Luis Suarez got straight in to the act; both in football terms as well as literally, and in that order.

First it was his sheer upper body strength keeping away Gael Clichy before slipping in a delicious through ball for young Raheem Sterling to run on to.

The youngster then pulled up a master class turning City skipper Vincent Kompany inside out before slotting it past a wrong footed Joe Hart.

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard then nearly sent the Kop in to delirium with a punchy header on goal, just about kept out by Hart. It gave you a feeling that if he hadn’t connected as well with it as he did, it would’ve been 2-0.

Then it was in a matter of seconds anyway. Gerrard now turned corner taker and swung it in for Martin Skrtel’s glancing header for the second.

The Slovakian defender’s celebration of racing to his captain seconds before being at the bottom of a pile of red shirts, it said everything you needed to know about how much this meant.

Not only in terms of a goal and 2-0 lead. This was against the title favourites but on a weekend when everyone wearing a Liverpool shirt seemed spiritually united. This was a team with a mission, a purpose, not seen since the early years of a certain Rafael Benitez’s reign.

If the reaction to the first two goals seemed an overstatement to anyone, they were soon shown why they were mistaken.

For this was a Manchester City made of extremely stern stuff. Their quality might have been wheel-barrowed in with oil money – an accusation their detractors use to berate them while the blue half of Manchester celebrates – but it was there in abundance.

The second half started with the Citizens controlling the show while Liverpool inexplicably withdrew momentarily from either pressing or pressurising them for possession of the ball.

The first 20 minutes since the restart was a lesson in why you do not give the likes of David Silva and James Milner too much time on the ball.

The duo combined to good effect to pull back the first goal, while a fortuitous deflection from Glen Johnson had suddenly plugged a silencer on Anfield.

But this is where one of Brendan Rodgers’ most overused word during post-match interviews retained full validity – character.

The Reds came out of the blocks again, started taking control of possession again, before Luis Suarez’s second act threatened to derail the whole thing.

He went down too easily on more than one occasion and when you’re on a yellow card, that’s an absolute no-no.

Someone will have to jerk him awake again this week or there’s time yet for this to cost us and for his hard work throughout an entire season to yet again be eclipsed by disciplinary issues.

Despite his antics reminding Liverpool fans why they detested Didier Drogba so much in his heyday, the striker still managed to get a head to a throw-in to knock it past Martin Demichelis.

The rest happened in super slow motion for Vincent Kompany – the outstretched right leg, the arms awkwardly in the air, trying to regain balance, while flapping at a clearance only to slice it.

Enter the man once labelled at Inter Milan reject. That notion was put to bed very early on in his Liverpool career last season itself, and then only further built on during this campaign.

Here’s why.

Once Kompany’s failed clearance bobbled in to the City penalty area, there was still plenty to do for the Brazilian.

The ball was running away from him at an angle and it meant the only way he could’ve got the shot on target was if he was running sideways and back while wrapping the inside of his foot on the shot.

Six out of 10 times, that might have been sliced or skied or struck tamely in to the keeper’s hands. This one whistled past Joe Hart before he even saw it.

It was no less than the reward Coutinho deserved for his work throughout the game, despite being overshadowed by Raheem Sterling’s sharp turns that drew the bigger gasps all afternoon.

Joe Allen was another one who immediately put his mark on the game after coming on for Daniel Sturridge and possibly makes the case for inclusion should the striker be unavailable against Norwich.

Once Jordan Henderson had lunged in late on and got Mark Clattenburg to pull out a straight red, the anxiety sweeping Anfield wasn’t about losing a player. It was about how long was left before the final whistle would sound.

That was mixed with a sort of desperation of how close to the end this was against Manchester City, and that a few moments in between might have prevented it altogether.

The biggest thing occupying everyone’s mind at Anfield was to hear the final three sharp blasts that signalled end of a match which had drained almost everyone watching.

Nothing is set yet though. Liverpool know they are far from guaranteed anything and could still end up with a ‘so close yet so far’ tale as has been the case in the past since 1990.

Momentum may be on Liverpool’s side but things happen only in a flash and before you know it, it’s back to staring down at abyss.

The Canaries have something to prove and with a new manager put in charge, they’ll be renewed with vigour at home.

Henderson’s sending off means he definitely won’t be available next week but given the lack of malice in his challenge and the fact that he’d won the ball first anyway, might keep his punishment down to just that.

He will be a vital cog in the Liverpool midfield if Rodgers’ former mentor Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea are to be outclassed.

Remember the back end of December when back to back away trips to Man City and Chelsea were billed as a test of Liverpool’s credentials to finish in the top 4.

It’s ironic the same two sides can make or break a higher class of credentials.

Right now though, it’s all about the character and resilience, which was personified by Steven Gerrard grabbing hold of his team-mates in a huddle and hammering in the reality check.

“This is gone. We go to Norwich. Exactly the same. We go together.”

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