Liverpool maintained their charge for a first English championship of the Premier League era with a thrilling 3-2 win over title rivals Manchester City at an emotional Anfield on Sunday, where fans marked the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
Victory, combined with second-placed Chelsea’s 1-0 win away to 10-man Swansea City, left Liverpool two points clear at the top with four games to play and seven in front of City.
Significantly it meant the destiny of the title, which Liverpool last won in 1989-1990, is now in the Reds’ own hands.
Third-placed City have two games in hand on both Liverpool and Chelsea, who travel to Anfield in two weeks for what could be a title-decider.
Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho sealed a 10th win in a row for the Reds 12 minutes from time after City had come from 2-0 down to draw level at 2-2.
First-half goals from Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel put Liverpool in control, only for City to hit back after the break through David Silva and a Glen Johnson own-goal, but Coutinho made it 3-2 in the 78th minute after seizing on a sliced clearance from City captain Vincent Kompany to beat England goalkeeper Joe Hart with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Liverpool had to play the closing minutes of stoppage-time a man down after Jordan Henderson was sent off for a wild challenge on City’s Samir Nasri.
Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, praised his side’s resolve.
“It was a remarkable performance,” Rodgers said.
“We showed so much spirit and quality,” he said.
The 41-year-old Northern Irish manager said that his players could cope with the rising tide of optimism at Anfield.
“We have been put under pressure in a very big game, but you can see from the quality of our football that we are coping with it,” he said.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini said his side were unfortunate not to come away with at least a point.
“We played very well [in the] second half when there was only one team on the pitch and we had clear chances to win the game,” Pellegrini said.
The 60-year-old Chilean insisted his side had not given up on the title, despite the defeat.
“If we win our two games in hand we will be a point behind Liverpool, who still have to play Chelsea,” Pellegrini said.
“The title does not finish today. We are still going to fight,” the Chliean said.
Before kickoff, there was a minute’s silence in memory of the 96 Liverpool supporters killed in a crush during a FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough on April 15, 1989.
In another tribute to the victims of the tragedy, matches across England were moved back by seven minutes this weekend, reflecting the moment the fateful match at Hillsborough was called off.
At the Liberty Stadium in Wales, Swansea City were a man down as early as the 16th minute after Chico Flores collected a second yellow card for bringing down Andre Schurrle, but it was not until the 68th minute that Jose Mourinho’s side made their advantage count, with Demba Ba’s shot somehow evading Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
It was Ba’s second important goal of the week after he scored in Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg victory against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday last week.