Manchester City moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League as a comfortable, if eventful, 3-0 victory over Liverpool at Eastlands maintained their incredible home form.
First-half goals from Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure were followed by the 72nd-minute dismissal of City midfielder Gareth Barry for a second bookable offense, but within 60 seconds James Milner had extended City’s lead from the penalty spot.
After 10 minutes, City took the lead at a home stadium that had been virtually impregnable last year, the team having collected 52 points out of an available 54 in home league games during the calendar year.
Milner robbed the ball from Dirk Kuyt on the left and found David Silva, whose touch opened the path for Aguero to unleash a 20m shot which should have presented Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina with no problem, only for the Spaniard to allow the ball to squirm under his body and into the goal.
A difficult task was rendered virtually impossible after 33 minutes when City doubled their lead.
Reina made amends for his earlier error when he spectacularly tipped a Vincent Kompany header over his crossbar from a Milner corner, but from the resulting Silva corner, Liverpool’s marking was found wanting and Yaya Toure was allowed the space to guide an unstoppable header into the goal via the underside of the bar.
Events might have unfolded very differently had the visitors taken the game’s first real chance after just seven minutes when Jordan Henderson played a clinical through ball for Stewart Downing, only for the winger to be denied by Joe Hart’s sprawling body.
However, as in that instance, Liverpool’s best opportunities would be limited to the counterattack and, even before the goal, Reina had been forced to save at the foot of his post from Edin Dezko’s shot on the turn.
After his error for the opening goal, Reina was soon tested again when Aguero’s intelligent chip had the goalkeeper back-pedaling to make a solid catch and, in the 22nd minute, Dzeko maintained the pressure with a shot which deflected off Glen Johnson and passed just wide, with Reina wrong-footed.
Liverpool finally found their feet at about the midway point of the clash when Charlie Adam’s 20m free-kick beating the City wall and forcing Hart into a diving save and, moments later, Henderson chanced his arm with a ferocious 25m drive which flew just past Hart’s right-hand post.
Liverpool’s general attacking play improved after Kenny Dalglish introduced Steven Gerrard and former City forward Craig Bellamy as 57th-minute substitutes, but Bellamy’s inaccurate 65th-minute shot from outside the area was the first attempt on goal in the period.
Liverpool were handed brief hope when Barry brought down Daniel Agger and, after a first-half caution for fouling Jay Spearing, he was sent off.
However, within a minute City were further in front when Martin Skrtel checked Yaya Toure in the Liverpool area, conceding a penalty that Milner converted emphatically.
Earlier, Liverpool said they would not appeal against striker Luis Suarez’s eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, the Football Association (FA) said.
“Liverpool FC have this afternoon informed the FA that they will not be appealing the decision of an Independent Regulatory Commission in relation to the recently proven misconduct charge against Luis Suarez,” the governing body said in a statement on its Web site. “Suarez will be suspended with immediate effect for a period of eight matches, starting with this evening’s fixture against Manchester City.”