Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina had a very bad day against Manchester City.LONDON – Manchester City rediscovered its attacking flair to sweep aside Liverpool 3-0 and move three points clear at the top of the English Premier League.
As Tottenham emerged as serious title challengers with a 1-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion, goals from Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and James Milner gave 10-man City their big home win.
A lacklustre Christmas period saw City lose at Sunderland and draw at West Bromwich, but the side started 2012 more ruthlessly back at Eastlands.
Its 100 per cent home record was extended to 10 matches after Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina gifted Aguero a soft opener, Toure exploited poor defending to head home and Milner scored from the penalty spot after City midfielder Gareth Barry had been sent off.
“We were incredibly efficient and it’s a great win,” City captain Vincent Kompany said. “It is one of the top six teams out of the way and now we know Manchester United and the other teams have to play each other.”
City has a three-point lead over Manchester United and is a further three points ahead of Tottenham.
Liverpool went into the match still dealing with the fallout from Luis Suarez’s repeated racial abuse of Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in October.
Accepting an eight-match ban while still protesting the punishment hours before yesterday’s game meant Suarez’s suspension immediately kicked in.
And with it, Liverpool lost its biggest threat and crashed to just its second defeat in 18 matches.
“If you want to be a successful team, and they are one, you have got to be clinical,” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said.
““We’ve got to get that into our make-up. Tonight we never had that. It’s a lesson learned for us.”
City took just 10 minutes to go in front, with Milner releasing David Silva, who in turn fed Aguero and the striker’s 20-metre shot passed under Reina’s diving body into the net.
It was slack marking from Silva’s 33rd-minute corner that allowed Toure to head in the second off the underside of the crossbar.
Even bringing on the experienced duo of Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy after the break could not spark a Liverpool revival.
Neither could City being reduced to 10 men from the 73rd when Barry, booked for a first-half foul on Jay Spearing, bumped into Daniel Agger and was sent off.
Within a minute of that, Martin Skrtel’s foul on Toure gave City a penalty kick that Milner sent high into the net.
City manager Roberto Mancini apologised later for brandishing an imaginary yellow card on the touchline at Skrtel. “In the moment maybe I did that because I was not happy with the referee, but I made a mistake,” he said.
City will now be hoping United slips up against Newcastle today to maintain its three-point lead over the champion.
For now, Tottenham is just three points behind United thanks to Jermain Defoe’s 63rd-minute goal against West Brom.
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