For the second time this season, a defensive mishap saw Liverpool only come away with a 2-2 draw against Manchester City, although it is the champions who will likely be more dejected after an entertaining encounter at the Etihad.
After Edin Dzeko and Daniel Sturridge had exchanged goals in the first half, a fine second-half display from Liverpool looked to have sent them on the road to a memorable win when Steven Gerrard drove in a trademark shot from distance with 17 minutes remaining.
But, just five minutes later, Pepe Reina rushed needlessly from his goal to try and claim a chipped ball over the top and there was little surprise as Sergio Aguero’s pace saw him get to the ball first. From there, though, Aguero’s contribution was world class as from an improbable angle just a couple of yards from the byline he produced an instant shot that found the far side of the net.
Despite coming back for a point, the home side will be left far from delighted with the outcome. City now trail rivals Manchester Untied by nine points with just 13 games remaining after dropping points for the second game in succession.
It was an occasion that had plenty of similarities with the clash at Anfield back in August and, indeed, with many of Liverpool’s matches against the top sides this season. Liverpool are still looking for a win over a side above them in the Premier League table, with their good performances continuing to be undermined by a brittleness at the back and a propensity for individual errors.
Just four days ago, Liverpool led 2-0 against Arsenal before conceding two quick-fire goals to again only come away with a point.
City had started the brighter with David Silva forcing Reina to tip a dipping shot over the bar in the first minute and Javi Garcia later heading a presentable chance over the bar.
Sure enough, it was the home side, desperately needing a win to close the gap to United, who struck first. Milner received a ball inside the full-back down the left and put an ideal ball low across the face of goal, leaving Dzeko with the simple task of tapping home from three yards out.
But Liverpool would produce a response just six minutes later with their first of two fine goals. Garcia gave the ball away to Gerrard on the edge of the box and the midfielder laid it into the path of Sturridge, who struck an unstoppable effort low into the corner.
Liverpool’s high pressing and fluid passing and movement saw them on top after the break and they got their reward with a goal that topped even their first-half effort.
Gael Clichy cleared a cross from inside the box, but it fell perfectly for the one man in the Liverpool team he would of least wanted it to. Gerrard chested the ball into his path 30 yards from goal then hit a stunning strike that dipped low into the bottom corner with Joe Hart given no chance.
Liverpool had less than 20 minutes to hold out for their biggest win of the season, but they would again just come up short.
While Reina’s error may grab the headlines, the majesty of Aguero’s finish should not be lost.
Sturridge had another long-range effort that forced Hart into a fine save late on, but the entertaining encounter finished all square.
Once the dust is settled, Brendan Rodgers will perhaps reflect with pleasure that his side is moving in the right direction. There will be fewer positives for Roberto Mancini, who is now facing a mammoth task to hang onto the Premier League title.