Negredo gives Man City 2-1 victory over Liverpool
(AP Photo/Jon Super)
By ROB HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
MANCHESTER, England (AP) 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."
Updated December 26, 2013