The Sunday of 13 April 2014 came two days before the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and a pulsating day at Anfield began with an impeccably-observed minute’s silence from everybody present as Liverpool played host to fellow Premier League title chasers.
With Chelsea not playing until later that afternoon, the Reds had a chance to land a direct blow on one of their title rivals with a raucous home crowd behind them and put the destination of the race for the trophy in their own hands. Form was certainly on Liverpool’s side, with Brendan Rodgers’ team coming into the game off the back of nine successive league wins that had propelled their challenge for a first crown in 24 years.
The Reds had made a happy habit of racing out of the traps in the 2013/14 Premier League and laid down an early marker in this clash of the title-chasing titans. Luis Suarez’s pass on six minutes released Raheem Sterling, then playing against Manchester City rather than for them, and the teenager showed delightful composure to wrong-foot Joe Hart before sliding the ball to the net in front of a delirious Kop.
The visitors suffered another blow when Yaya Toure was forced off with a muscle injury and, after Daniel Sturridge had spurned a glorious chance from eight yards out as the home side dominated the early exchanges, the gap would become more indicative of the pattern of play in the 26th minute. Slack Manchester City marking enabled Martin Skrtel to get his head to Steven Gerrard’s corner and divert it to the net to double Liverpool’s lead.
The Reds were in a commanding position but had to withstand some testing moments late in the first half, with Sterling bailing them out at one point with a clearance off the line from future team-mate Vincent Kompany and Simon Mignolet reacting quickly to thwart Fernandinho.
James Milner, who would go in the opposite direction to Sterling in the summer of 2015, came on at half-time and made a quick impact for Manuel Pellegrini’s side, setting up David Silva for a Manchester City goal within 12 minutes of his introduction for Jesus Navas. Only five minutes more had passed when Silva’s cross struck the legs of Glen Johnson and trickled over the line to restore parity between the teams.
With Sergio Aguero then being deployed from the bench, the momentum was firmly with the champions from two seasons previously. The Argentina striker looked set to claim an assist when he passed towards the advancing Silva but the ball narrowly evaded the Spaniard and Liverpool were off the hook.
It had already been a heart-racing afternoon at Anfield and there would be a couple of late twists. On 78 minute, Kompany’s attempt to clear from a Liverpool throw-in was sliced straight to Philippe Coutinho, with the Brazilian sending the ball past Hart to put the Reds back into the lead. There was angst around Anfield in added time when Jordan Henderson’s thundering late challenge on Samir Nasri saw him sent off but the home side held on for what seemed a defining victory. Gerrard’s tears after the final whistle, and his assembly of his team-mates in an emotional post-match huddle, spoke volumes for how massive a result this seemed.
Liverpool pulled seven points clear of their vanquished opponents, who had two games in hand and won their final five league fixtures to overhaul the Reds after Rodgers’ men fluffed their lines against Chelsea and Crystal Palace. Despite the Merseysiders’ ultimate disappointment, this still deserves to be recalled as a memorable afternoon at Anfield, given the raw emotion of the day and the surge of belief which came from such a hard-earned victory.
*All match details sourced from match report from BBC.
Liverpool fans, what are your memories of this clash from six years ago? Did you genuinely feel that the title was almost won after this result? Share your views in the comments section below!