Mens Team

The 12 Games of Christmas: City fightback to win festive thriller

Next up in our 12 Games of Christmas series is a hugely significant win in a captivating Boxing Day clash with Liverpool during our 2013/14 Premier League title winning season.

The game: City 2-1 Liverpool

Date: December 26, 2013


The story: If the 2013/14 title race and City’s subsequent triumph was encapsulated in one game, this was it, as the two best teams in the country went toe to toe in an encounter as enthralling as the season long battle for the trophy itself.

City would show a steely determination to clinch the title, holding our nerve in the final month of the season as Liverpool slipped away in dramatic fashion.

Such resilience was on display in this Boxing Day meeting to leave Manuel Pellegrini’s side celebrating and the Reds questioning – as they would in May – how they ended up empty handed.

Liverpool arrived at the Etihad Stadium as league leaders, whilst third-placed City came into the game with a 100% record at home, where we had already beaten Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in convincing fashion.

Brendan Rodgers’ side, with talisman Luis Suarez the focal point of an exciting forward line, ensured they would not suffer a similar fate, as both teams played their part in a thrilling end-to-end spectacle.

Jesus Navas glanced a header against the post in the opening exchanges before Raheem Sterling latched onto a Suarez through ball and rounded Joe Hart only for the assistant referee to flag for offside, though in the pre-VAR age replays showed the official got his decision wrong.

Suarez and Sterling combined again to give Liverpool the lead midway through the first half, with the latter rounding Hart once more and stepping aside for Phillippe Coutinho to slot into the empty net.

It was the first time City had fallen behind at home that season, but the deficit proved fleeting, as seven minutes later Vincent Kompany nodded in David Silva’s corner whilst Martin Skrtel grappled with his shirt.

Having watched Hart deny Coutinho with a fine save, a goalkeeping error allowed Alvaro Negredo to fire City into the lead on the stroke of half-time.

Played in by Navas, the Spaniard’s first-time strike appeared to lack the pace or direction to trouble Simon Mignolet, but he was aided by the Belgian’s weak attempt to save as the ball bounced over the line.

It remained a competitive contest after the break, but it was Liverpool who had the better of the chances.  

Hart made another good stop to deny Jordan Henderson from close range before Sterling blazed a glorious chance over after being picked out by Suarez at the far post.

It meant City passed our sternest test of the season to date and, after a game which could have gone either way, it felt like the comeback victory reinforced Pellegrini’s side’s title credentials.

“[They are] definitely the best team we have seen here at the Etihad,” said Vincent Kompany.

“Both teams wanted to win, and you could see it was up and down all game so to win is a massive boost.

“To come back and win always takes some doing so we’re very happy with that. It shows again that we can show our strength in different ways.”

City's strength of character was a theme of that championship winning season.

Finishing as the league's top scorers,  we were often devastating in attack, but could mix steel with silk when required as was particularly evident in this game.

And how important it proved to be, as come the end of the season just two points separated us from Liverpool in second place.

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