Another Pepe Reina mistake cost Liverpool dearly as they drew 2-2 at Champions Manchester City.
Edin Dzeko’s 12th goal of the season put the hosts ahead from close range midway through the first half only for Daniel Sturridge to smash home his fourth in six matches since his move from Chelsea.
An even better trademark Steven Gerrard strike put Liverpool ahead with 17 minutes to go but Sergio Aguero salvaged a point after a Reina mistake. However, it was not enough on a weekend when rivals Manchester United won and the result leaves Roberto Mancini’s side nine points adrift of the leaders.
There were just 49 seconds on the clock when Jose Reina was forced to tip over David Silva’s dipping volley. All the early pressure was with City but once Liverpool had weathered that initial storm they started to come into their own.
A deft touch by Sturridge took Stewart Downing’s lobbed pass past Hart in one move but he was denied a goal as Pablo Zabaleta got back to block. Luis Suarez, busy without being particularly threatening, flashed a shot across Hart and wide of the far post as it seemed the visitors were about to take control.
That notion was dispelled in the 24th minute as some neat interplay from Silva and James Milner from a throw-in on the left saw the latter cross low for Dzeko to sneak behind Daniel Agger and tap home from close range. If that goal was founded in simplicity Liverpool’s equaliser was made of pure brilliance.
Gerrard rolled the ball forward to the former City striker who smashed a fierce left-footed shot past Hart. It was the first goal the City goalkeeper had conceded since 29 December.
The Liverpool skipper then showed everyone the way to hit a ball in the 73rd minute with a strike reminiscent of his goal in the 2006 FA Cup final. Gael Clichy’s poor clearance from Jose Enrique’s cross dropped to the midfielder 30 yards out and the England captain controlled the ball on his chest before unleashing a dipping low volley which gave Hart no chance.
Martin Skrtel was introduced for the tiring Enrique and after almost scoring at one end was involved in a mix-up with Reina which allowed City to equalise. Aguero raced onto Gareth Barry’s pass and the goalkeeper’s rush of blood saw him charge out to the left edge of his area, from where the Argentina international turned him and fired in impressively from a narrow angle.
Sturridge forced Hart into a low save late on before departing to jeers from the fans who, only a couple of years ago, cheered him as one of their rising stars.
Gareth Bale’s superb strike earned Tottenham victory over 10-man West Brom at the Hawthorns – and closed the gap to third-placed Chelsea to one point in the Premier League.
The Wales international struck his 11th league goal of the campaign mid-way through the second half to end a run of three successive draws for Andre Villas-Boas’ team.
Albion played the final 42 minutes with 10 men after defender Goran Popov was sent off for spitting in the direction of Spurs defender Kyle Walker.
Tottenham took full advantage of their numerical advantage to dominate the second period despite the loss of leading scorer Jermain Defoe with an ankle injury. Bale was a constant threat with his pace and power as he followed up his mid-week equaliser at Norwich with another crucial goal.